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.

hand-warmers

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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Worried about that cold water during your race? Shop over 25,000 wetsuits and accessories at wetsuitwearhouse.com. Wetsuit Wearhouse stocks all styles of wetsuits, as well as boots, gloves, and hoods to keep you warm once you get wet. Expert service is available by phone, email, or live chat weekdays. Exclusive to Obstacle Racing Media customers, take 15% off any purchase by using coupon code ORM15Off. Visit wetsuitwearhouse.com for all of your wetsuit needs.

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Why My Wetsuit Played A Huge Role At World’s Toughest Mudder

There is something about a 24-hour race that you can never fully be prepared for. I could train harder, run faster, complete more pull-ups, and carry heavier things, but that doesn’t guarantee anything at World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM). Training is imperative to success, but there is a limit to what your physical prowess can provide. There are moments when you have to rely on our emotional and psychological strength to push you through, but even that gets tapped out at a certain point. Just like any race, there is utmost importance to prepare physically and psychologically, but unlike other races, gear plays an essential role in this 24-hour grind.

 

Coming into WTM for the fourth time, I knew what to expect, but there is only so much that prepares you for 24 hours of the unknown. Unlike previous years, I was competing in the Team Relay competition instead of the individual category. This would throw in a whole new dynamic to the once familiar race. Instead of slowly grinding my way throughout the race, I was tasked with racing hard for a short time and then stopping.

Here was the plan, start the race as a four-man team and then alternate two people every lap, minimizing pit time, until the wheels fell off. I was hoping that faster laps would allow me to wear a thinner wetsuit than previous years, knowing full well that things can go downhill quickly. I prepared my usual gauntlet of wetsuits and layers just in case. The plan was to start off in shorts and a t-shirt.
Once the sun went down, I switched into long compression gear. Then the Blegg Mitts and a windbreaker came on for a little more warmth. I knew that temperatures would quickly drop and more water obstacles at night meant that we would be cold and wet for the duration of the race. During previous years I wore full wetsuits ranging from 3/2mm to 5/3mm, often making it difficult to move. The relay calls for quicker laps, so I needed something that was warm enough, but less constricting than a full wetsuit. The plan was to use the Hyperflex VYRL 2.5mm Shorty Springsuit with a front chest zip and the 2.5mm Neosport Wetsuit Cap with an adjustable chinstrap from Wetsuit Wearhouse.

I wish I had more to tell you, but the truth is, this combination worked like a charm. Every lap, my teammate and I would start our lap in cold, wet gear. Putting those cold clothes on every lap added a whole new dimension of suck to WTM. Less than a mile into the lap, my body would warm up and it was off to the races. While the water temperature threw a wrench into many people’s plans, my layered outfit was perfect for staying warm on-course. When we finished a lap, we would quickly strip out of our wet clothes, throw on something warm, and try to recover for the next lap. While it would have been nice to have two wetsuits that I could alternate, this was a small wrinkle in the scheme of things. Plus, this is WORLD”S TOUGHEST MUDDER. It isn’t easy. While it was hard putting on wet clothes as we prepared for another lap, it didn’t rival the psychological ups and downs of the relay format.

All in all, it was a tough race. Starting and stopping throughout the night was a whole new challenge that I have never experienced. I was forced to stay loose while trying to recover in time for my next effort. My laps felt like an all-out sprint at times and it gave me a whole new experience at WTM. Our team managed to finish 2nd overall in the Team Relay category and I am so proud of my teammates and pit crew for helping us along the way. While Atlanta will bring a whole new challenge to WTM, I can only speculate that people will underestimate the conditions and forgo bringing a wetsuit. Don’t be one of those people. World’s Toughest Mudder is a race of unknowns, so always be prepared. I can’t wait to see all you crazies out there!

Nerd Alert! World’s Toughest Mudder Stats

I’ve always been a lover of statistics when it comes to sports. As a child, I collected baseball cards and was way more interested in the back of the card than the front. I would put the cards of my favorite players in protective binder sleeves with the backs facing forward, just so I would see the stats first. With a push towards analytics and sabermetrics, one now needs a degree from MIT to be able to understand stats in baseball. I mean, can anyone explain to me what FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) measures? I mean seriously, what the hell is this? FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant. It’s enough to make your head spin.

When they don’t go overboard like baseball, statistics can give us a fantastic way to visualize performance in sport. In regards to obstacle racing, there are many ways these numbers can give us a better look at our sport. For mandatory obstacle completion races such as OCRWC, band retention stats can help quantify how difficult the race was, or how tough specific obstacles were. For races like WTM, we can see how hard it is to reach that coveted 50 mile mark, or just how much better Ryan Atkins is than pretty much everyone else.

So here is what I’ve been doing with my apparently infinite free time (should have been training). I’ve made spreadsheets for every year of World’s Toughest Mudder and input the data using the results. I then turned those into column charts to further illustrate the numbers. For the earlier years, there is only placement for the top 10 or just the winners. For those I had to count each finisher at each mileage, so there may be a couple discrepancies here and there, but this should be very accurate give or take a few competitors. I only did this for individuals because the team event has not taken place every year, and the format has changed a few times.

 

2017 World’s Toughest Mudder

50 miles is a big goal number for anyone that competes at World’s Toughest Mudder, and 2017 exemplifies that with the highest total number of 50 mile finishers of any WTM. 2017 WTM saw over 400 people claim their 50 mile bib! It seems people really push themselves to get beyond the 45 mile mark and finish with 50. There is a very low number of finishers with exactly 45 miles. You can also see that people may be pretty happy getting that 50 miles bib and not continuing further, as there are a relatively low amount of 55 mile finishers compared to 50 mile finishers.

 

2016 World’s Toughest Mudder

2016 WTM was very similar to 2017, although it did see almost 11% more competitors make it to at least the 55 mile mark. It also saw over 50% of competitors reach at least 50 miles. The half century mark was by far the highest finisher spot with over 26% of the field finishing with exactly 50 miles. This year also saw the highest average mileage for male competitors at 45 miles.

 

2015 World’s Toughest Mudder

I am no WTM historian, and was not there, but I believe 2015 was the coldest year in Vegas with temps reaching the low 40’s. If that was the case, the stats show that with very high numbers finishing in the 25-35 range. Over 36% of competitors finished in that range. 2015 still saw more finishers at 50 miles than any other mileage, but trailed closely by 25 mile finishers.

 

2014 World’s Toughest Mudder

The first year in the desert brought the infamous sandstorm. This took a toll on mileage as you can see the chart is very similar to 2015 with the colder temps, but actually has a 25 mile finisher rate than 50 miles. 2014 was the only time in Vegas where that occurred.

 

2013 World’s Toughest Mudder

2013’s chart looks extremely similar to 2016 and 2017. Almost 52% finished at least 50 miles. Very impressive for the last run in NJ. The temps were quite a bit higher this year than the other years in NJ though, so the weather was more favorable. This year had the highest average mileage for women, and just edged out 2016 for highest average mileage total.

 

2012 World’s Toughest Mudder

Tough race, but it looks as though more people knew what to expect this year vs 2011. The temps were warmer, but still, only 3o% of competitors made it beyond 3 laps/30 miles.

 

2011 World’s Toughest Mudder

Just brutal! Over 55% of competitors bailed after their first lap, and another 25% were gone after finishing the second. So 80% of people that started only made it 16 miles. This was the only WTM that took place in December, and temperatures were frigid. The low temp was in the mid 20’s and people just weren’t having it. It also needs to be noted that they did not start mileage awards till a couple years later. I actually only think they counted the winners as official finishers, so there wasn’t that incentive to keep pushing or to even have a mileage goal. One other thing of note about 2011 is the women actually had a higher average mileage than the men. This was the only year that has happened.

 

World’s Toughest Mudder 2011-2017

These are the composite charts for all seven years of World’s Toughest Mudder. You can really see just how rare it is to finish with more than 75 miles, as just over 1% of the almost 7400 total competitors have done so. Hell, less than 14% have made it beyond the 50 mile mark. I’m also a little surprised at just how few women have competed in this event. There have been over 7 times more men run WTM over the years than women.  This sport has always been dominated by men when it comes to numbers, but it is slowly trending up for the women at WTM. I think the addition of the Toughest Mudder 8 HR series will only help bring more participants to World’s Toughest Mudder, as it really provides people the opportunity to get acclimated to doing these longer OCR events.

ATL

I for one am extremely excited for WTM 2018, as it will take place about 25 minutes from my house, and be my first go at the grueling event. I’m hesitant to name a goal mileage at this point, because a lot can happen in the next 340 plus days. The 30 miles I finished at Toughest South were the most I’ve ever run in one event. I’d like to at least double that next November, but regardless, I can’t wait to be a part of this amazing event. Here’s to hoping I end up on the right side of the statistics!

Obstacle Racing Media’s Massive World’s Toughest Mudder Archive

Planning and Training for World’s Toughest Mudder Success

World’s Toughest Mudder is a BIG THING. You can’t just show up and wing it. Success at WTM demands both careful planning and intelligent training, which is what this series will be about. Before submitting these articles, I thought I’d ask a guy I know what he considers to be the optimal way of approaching WTM. The good news is that his approach and mine were essentially the same. The bad news is that he was super concise, so I’m here to expand on it and flesh it out into usable tools and guidelines. Oh yeah, here’s what he said:

Think through every possible detail/angle carefully, practice it, then systematically kick ass. – Ryan Atkins


PLANNING


I am not one for clichés, but I can’t put it any better than these, so here is a short list of planning clichés :

  • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” – a bunch of memes
  • No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” – Helmut von Moltke
  • “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
  • Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

When your plans meet the real WTM, the real WTM wins. Few things go exactly as planned. Mistaken assumptions chow down on your asses. The most brilliant plan loses touch with reality, and if you’re not careful you’ll follow it down the crapper.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Planning-Invaders

OK, what’s the deal, Dobos? To paraphrase Hamlet: “to plan or not to plan, that is the question.” Well, the answer is a qualified “yes.” DO absolutely definitely plan thoroughly, but DO NOT place absolute reliance on your plan. Accept that your beautiful plan will start falling apart at some point during the event, likely much sooner and in more and shittier ways than you had anticipated. Make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for “plan B”, “plan C”, or just going into survival mode. Reality will not yield to your plans, so you must adapt to the actual circumstances at hand.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Plan

The first step to planning is to understand as much as possible of what will go down in Atlanta next year at WTM. Do all the obvious things: watch videos of past WTMs, read race reports, go to WTM groups and pages online, look over maps of past WTM courses, etc. That will give you a good idea of what challenges will be presented to you. The other big thing you need to understand is exactly what you will be bringing to the show. Where is your fitness now? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How much improvement can you realistically expect in those by the time Atlanta rolls around? (That last refers to TRAINING, which I’ll come to later in this series)

World's-Toughest-Mudder-2016-course-map

As you can see, it’s very, VERY easy to get hopelessly buried in details, so you need to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Try to group things together into categories of challenges that you need to overcome for success.

The challenges presented by WTM can be boiled down to 3 big ones:
1. dealing with the cold and wet conditions

2. being on your feet and moving for 24 hours

3. completing as many obstacles as efficiently as possible

I have cleverly triaged those challenges in order of importance: 1 is to survive, 2 is to complete, and 3 is to perform. Number 1 can end your race prematurely. It has done so time and again, to rookies and veterans and elite racers. It is the first thing you need to figure out how to deal with because without it the rest of your grand plans are just so much fantasy.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Cold-Wet-Tired

WTM Challenge #1: The Horrible Laws of Thermodynamics

Regardless of where and when WTM is held, it’s always cold. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check and monitor the weather forecast as race-day approaches, but don’t let it lull you into a false sense of security. Every single person at WTM this year – racers AND crew – knew that the single biggest challenge, the #1 reason for DNFs, was going to be cold. Just like it was last year and the year before, and so onto into the mists of prehistory. However, knowing the problem is only half the problem. You need a solution or, preferably, several solutions.

Problem: you’re cold
Solution: dress warmly, with layers and stuff. No problem, right?

Well…not exactly. The other thing every single person knew was that you would be wet for pretty much the last 22 hours or so. Therefore that bitchin’ fleece hoodie you got yourself, far from keeping you warm, will be worse than useless once it’s soaked. That’s why you see almost everyone wearing wet-suits from late afternoon through to well after sunrise.

Problems: you’re cold and wet
Solution: get a wet-suit. Problem solved, right?

Nope. We need to understand the basics of heat transfer, and exactly what clothing can and cannot do for you. Time for a thought experiment…

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Campfire

 

Take 4 identical water bottles. Fill 2 of them with cold water, and 2 of them with hot water. Now go dig up the toastiest sleeping bag you have. Bring out that 800 fill -40C rated monster, the one that has you sweating inside of 12 seconds if you dare crawl into it in anything warmer than -20 conditions. If you don’t have one, borrow from a friend.

Place one cold water bottle inside the sleeping bag way down at the foot end of the bag. Place a hot bottle up near the head end of the bag. Place the other 2 bottles a fair distance apart on the floor outside the sleeping bag. BTW, this is happening in your living room, so the ambient temp is around 22C. Go re-watch 2 hours of your fave WTM coverage, then come back and check the temperatures of the water in the bottles. What do you think you’ll find?

<Spoiler Alert>Let’s start with the easy ones: outside the sleeping bag. Both of those should be pretty close to room temperature. Heat always travels from warmer to colder, so the hot bottle will have lost heat to the room, while the cold one will have absorbed heat from the room. Both bottles will be around 22C. Easy peasy. Now, what about the sleeping bag?

At first blush, it’s tempting to assume that the ones that were in the insanely warm sleeping bag would be warmed up. Sadly, first blush is dead wrong in this case. What you’d actually find is that the cold one stayed quite cold – much colder than room temperature – and the hot one stayed quite hot – much warmer than room temperature. This is because a sleeping bag is simply a thermal insulator. It neither heats nor cools, it simply insulates whatever is inside it from whatever is outside.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Thermodynamics-Batman

Clothing, including wet-suits, are the same: they generate exactly 0 heat. None. Zilch. Bupkus. SFA. If you’re freezing and throw on a 20mm wet-suit with a dryrobe over top, it will NOT warm you up. At least, not quickly enough.

At this point, you may be asking “why wear anything at all?” Well, the reason wearing insulating clothing works is because your body is constantly generating heat. Even if you’re curled up in the fetal position in your crew tent, your body is still generating heat because it needs to keep things at around body temperature in order to function properly. In the above scenario, you will slowly warm up as the heat generated by your basal metabolic rate gets trapped inside the dryrobe/wet-suit combo until you eventually get toasty warm. You need to know how to speed this process up, so keep reading.

There are several ways to warm yourself up much faster. The most enjoyable one is called “shared body warmth”, and all I’ll say about it is that you had better know your crew very, very well. The most effective strategy when you are in your pit is to ingest something hot, like a bowl of hot oatmeal or steaming cups of coffee or soup. The next pit tactic is to pour hot (not scalding – be careful) liquid into your wetsuit. The most important way may be less obvious, but it is the most critical because you can do it throughout the event: MOVE.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Sufferfests-Cold-Guy-at-Tough-Guy

The only way you can move is through your muscles doing work. Human physiology is laughably inefficient, and most of the feeble trickle of chemical energy that we manage to generate in order to move gets wasted as heat. This heat builds up until your core temperature starts to get too high, and your body starts dumping it by pumping blood (essentially like radiator fluid in this scenario) out to your skin and limbs. Your clothing traps some of this heat, creating a progressively warmer micro-environment right next to your body surface and voila: you warm up!

Your body knows this even if you don’t, and has come up with a fantastically inefficient pattern of muscle contractions to cope with cold stress. Inefficient at moving, but super-awesome at generating heat. It’s called shivering. Shivering is ok, but it’s exhausting and makes things like Operation hilariously impossible. Your goal is to spend muscular energy moving forward, not jittering madly in place, so work on moving forward as hard as you can. Conversely, if you know that you’ll be forced to go slowly, whether from exhaustion or injury, then dress more warmly.

Even with all of the above dialed in, there is still a big make-or-break challenge related to overcoming the wet coldness: the wetsuit. The next (much shorter) article will delve into the hows and whys and dos and don’ts of WTM wetsuits.

World's-Toughest-Mudder-Wetsuit-Crack-Memecenter.com