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.  =)

Whistler Toughest 2017 – Procrastination

The lead up to Whistler Toughest Mudder had most everyone anxious about the cold, particularly with the crew in Greater Vancouver. There was still about 2 meters of snow at the venue 3 weeks prior to the event. Our wolf pack at Vancity OCR did several wetsuit test runs to ensure all our equipment was appropriate.

Whistler Olympic Park, the venue weeks prior:

Come race day, the snow was all gone but anticipations about cold weather lingered. There were also some new concerns: bear warnings and food restrictions on course.

The low for the day was projected to be about 5 degrees Celsius – with the ice in Arctic Enema and potential wind chill this can be pretty cold.  Many dropped out of Tough Mudder in Whistler over the past 2 years due to hypothermia or simply being too cold to function. Dressing for the start became the dilemma. Dressing too little may mean wasting time by having to stop and put on a wetsuit. But the first lap, being mostly obstacle free with little to no water entry, can be disastrous if you overdress and overheat.

Like many others, I decided to err on the warmer side.  I had on a thermal base layer top and bottom, frog skin hoodie, merino wool, and neoprene socks, a 1 mm neoprene short sleeve and a farmer John with the top pulled down. I was really comfortable in the corral while listening to Sean Corvelle and didn’t quite realize that meant I would be getting far too hot once I started to run. That is exactly what happened. One mile into the course, I was sweeting buckets; I couldn’t wait to get dunked in the water – but there was none.

I bruised my knee badly in January and was not able to use my right leg for 2 months. Getting back to exercise was tough and when I did, progressing slow was even tougher. I have an irregular training schedule, cardio mostly when I commuted, often 3 days midweek. The other four straight days is often of strength conditioning by means of heavy lifting in manual work. Needless to say, I was not very fit going into this event.  I wasn’t expected to run very far but the feeling of being slow and the restrictive layers of neoprene made the experience more torturous. I laboured every step feeling like I was trudging through molasses. The heat also weighed me down. I have chronic neck pain and this was exacerbated by the tight hoodie. The heat, the lack of fitness and the constriction was all making me nauseous.

Around 2.5 miles into the course the elites came stampeding past. They spiked my adrenaline a little. God damn it! I am really that slow? They’re on their second lap already? I kept telling myself they are just very gifted and fit… they do this training thing full time… there is no fun and all pain in what they do… I am… “having fun”?

But really, I wasn’t feeling too badly for myself as I was in good company. I was keeping up with Warren Zamko who latter placed first in his age group with 30 miles. I was maintaining a decent pace with him up until Lumberjack (3 gut checkers, approximately 12” diameter logs suspended at 4’-5’ high). I usually get a big kick out of this obstacle and wish it was at every event, but I got my ass kicked so badly here. I bounced, slipped and slid off these evil logs – totally getting left behind. But thanks to all the Mudders around me I was pushed, pulled and thrown over. For the remainder of the event I resorted to using the braces. Skid Marked (an inverted wall) also sucked. Aside from the braces there was nothing to officially climb on.  They were just over 8ft and 1” out of my reach.  Thanks again to the camaraderie of my fellow Mudders, I was pulled and thrown over.  This night, I would be humbled.

Lumber Jacked with Warren Zamko and David Beaudry:

When I finally got to the pit, I kinda spaced out. The combination of the heat and the neoprene compressing my jugular were making me woozy. I asked myself if I really wanted to do this. I was hot and I wondered if I should remove my layers. I knew I potentially needed them to keep warm once I hit the water obstacles.  I would definitely appreciate them once I got wet.  I don’t like water; I don’t swim well; in fact, I’m extraordinarily good at sinking. What to do… What to do… I have to take a pee.

With an empty bladder and a few bites to eat, I started to feel cold… and that put an end to my procrastination.  I had intended to do some videos of the Vancity OCR crew, so I figured I better get that done before I decided to stop. Moving will get me warm. My fellow Mudders will get me moving.

As I puttered along, my body was starting to feel better and more responsive. Balls to the Wall wasn’t a big deal: it was a nice obstacle to get your body in gear and wrap your head around being up and off the ground. I helped someone out who was stuck there and instantly felt more empowered. I loosened up and started to warm up. I was feeling comfortable.

My chest got tense the moment I approached Funky Monkey. I don’t usually have a problem with this obstacle, why was I feeling so anxious? The bars were damp and I feared I might slip. I approached the ascent facing forward and felt my swing get a little out of control – so I quickly turned to my side and led with my right arm. That was much better. I got to the horizontal wheel and noticed the person in the next lane getting stuck. The wheel wasn’t rotating like it’s supposed to. I grabbed it, and swung back and forth to accelerate myself around to the vertical wheels and until I made it to the platform. I made it and I was still dry.

My nerves got more heightened as I neared Hang Time; this was my first time at this obstacle. I don’t like heights – and I dislike falling and having to swim even more. I jumped and caught the bar and cargo comfortably enough, but sliding down the cable felt much more difficult than what I have seen from others. I wasn’t sliding very well and had to push myself down the cable. Other people made the descent look so effortless and fun; Amin Menhadji seemed to just glide down. Perhaps my wetsuit was too sticky

Hang Time with Amin Menhadji:

My sinking sense of anxiety continued towards Snot Rocket.  I was mentally preparing myself for the cold water but it turned out to be relatively warm. The down spray of water was also weaker than I imagined and did not make ascending the sewer pipe difficult.

Snot Rocket with Amin Menhadji:

Next came Black Hole, which is Birth Canal in the race. I was not up for fully challenging myself and crawled along the edges of the tarps. Many people did this and I figure TMHQ should really block the easy way through with barriers of some sort; force everyone into the same challenge

Stage 5 Clinger was pretty straight forward but I have a few hiccups trying to get on top of the platform.  There was a 4×6 block on the vertical support beams that many used for the final ascent. It was very helpful.

Stage 5 Clinger with Amin Menhadji:

Mud Mile 2.0 had a similarly easy option. The flagging tape was so wide around the first 3 trenches most people simply walked that high path around. As I contemplated what to do, Trevor Cichosz came barrelling past running straight through the middle; good on you! The trenches were deep, but the walls were solid and allowed many footprint steps to develop; stepping out was a breeze; it just took longer than skirting.

My first round at Artic Enema was nasty. There was no ice but the water bit into your skin, luckily that took only a minute or so to settle. Later in the night ice was added but it did not feel as cold. Perhaps the air had warmed it.

Clearly, the conditions were much better than expected. By moving at my slower pace, I stayed very comfortable in my layers of neoprene. Running faster would have made things unpleasantly hot. I just didn’t feel the urge of energy to push. My knee was doing well… I guess I was lucky for not having the fitness to hurt myself. As I ran up to various other Vancity folks it was nice to hang out and chat along the route.

Pyramid Scheme was aided by ropes, as was the descent of Shawshanked.

Like at all Toughest events, Everest was combined with the Grappler. Fortunately, they allowed the rope to stay up as long as it was occupied. I have yet to master that Grappler technique.

Kiss of Mud was just a deep trench that you had to run down and out of. This had been the trench for walk the plank in the past.

With the surprisingly warm conditions, Blockness Monster was a joy to be in. Kong followed shortly as you approached the finish. Having your hands still wet from Blockness made Kong challenging for many. And some who fell off Kong later in the night slid into the opposing scaffolding, forcing this obstacle to close mid-way through the race.


Blockness Monster with Kirsten Hijdra, Shanny Shan, John Tai

It’s hard to say whether this was the most challenging of the Toughest courses thus far. But suffice it to say, when the hill up the ski jump opened, it added another element of difficulty. I only had time to do this once when I reached it at 5:30am. Running up the ski jump on all fours was a great way to give your legs a break.

Canada's Toughest Mudder - The Soul CrusherDespite socializing and taking many pictures and videos along the way, I did 20 miles in a pretty good time. There was nearly 90 minutes left when I finished my last lap. Not enough for a fifth, but if I hadn’t procrastinated so much, I probably would have managed. I felt disappointed I didn’t give it my all but I had fun taking it easy and was feeling great post race. When speaking with some of the elites, many said they would appreciate a nice and easy race. I am not so keen to always have the pressure to push but it would be nice to be as fast as they are. If there was anything to be learned this night it’s not to waste time procrastinating and to put your heart into every minute of every race. Don’t set your limits because you never know what it might be; setting it too low would only make yourself your most difficult obstacle.

John Tai