One week from now, I will be on the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) course. If you are reading this, chances are, you know what the WTM is. In case you don’t know, WTM is an 8-10 mile obstacle course that contains approximately 40 obstacles. Some of the obstacles may include carrying tires, climbing 12′ walls, running up a greased quarter pipe, or 10,000 volt shocks. Competitors have 24 hours to complete as many laps as they can. There is a $15,000 prize for the top male and female Mudders (most laps) and $20,000 for the top team (must have at least 4 members and each member must finish every lap with team).
I have changed my strategy for this event more than once. At one point, my strength training was about 2/5 of my routine. Running was the other 3/5. As time went on, I started to really look at the obstacles from last year and the breakdown of the 3 types of obstacles.*
• “Must Complete” Obstacles: These obstacles are physically possible for all participants and must be completed in their entirety. Examples include Kiss of Mud, Boa Constrictor, etc.
• “Must Attempt” Obstacles: These obstacles may not be physically possible for all participants but must still be attempted. The obstacle will have a built-in penalty for those that fail to complete it. Examples include Funky Monkey, Ball Shrinker, etc. (failure of obstacle results in full submersion in water).
• “Opt Out” Obstacles. These obstacles will feature alternatives for those that cannot physically complete them. Examples include Berlin Walls, Everest, etc. Note that the alternative options will be significantly more challenging than the obstacle itself, e.g. an additional Arctic Enema, a one-mile out and back run, etc.
My plan was focusing too much on strength training and not enough on running. First, I didn’t want to gain weight. The heavier I am, the more weight I have to carry around for 24 hours. At my heaviest, I was 175lbs. That’s not much more than I weighed earlier, but it did make the wetsuit a little too snug. As I looked at the description of the 3 types of obstacles, watched videos from last year, and use previous Tough Mudders (TM) experience, I realized that running will be imperative to making it 24 hours. It is much more important than strength training. Here’s why:
I believe that all of the “Must Complete” obstacles are ones that everyone should be able to complete, no matter what lap they are on. Everyone can do the Boa Constrictor and Devil’s Beard. The “Must Attempt” obstacles will be able to be completed by most participants the first lap or two, but the penalty is “just” falling in the water. Rumors from last year were that one of the top finishers was not even attempting those obstacles (would jump as far as they could on the Funky Monkey to save time). I will not do that. I am here to challenge myself. I will attempt every obstacle, every lap. If the “Opt Out” obstacles can’t be completed, the penalties certainly can be done.
So, it’s my opinion, that having legs that can go the distance, is the primary focus. If my legs won’t let me go past 40 miles, it’s over. If I can’t do a Berlin Wall (8′ or 12′ wall), then I get someone to help. My decision was to focus on getting my legs strong and to get them to used to a lot of miles. I want to use my legs as much as possible during the event. All climbing will focus on using my legs, as opposed to upper body. Every Mudder out there will be my new best friend. My ego is not going to get in the way. I can get over the Berlin Walls by myself and have done Mt. Everest with ease (not greased, though!). I plan on getting help as much as I give. We are all one, big team, just moving through the course at different speeds.
It was around November ’11 when I found out about the WTM ’11. I wanted to do it so bad! My wife and I just finished our first marathon and did a TM earlier that year (SoCal #1). We were setting goals and reaching them. I knew that WTM ’11 was not going to happen, so I set my sights on WTM ’12. The first event that I could attempt to qualify on was SoCal #1 in February. It was my first time running in the first wave. I loved it! The first half mile was uphill to a set of Berlin Walls. I started the run with 2 others, but they told me to just go when we got the walls. They knew I was feeling it and I wouldn’t qualify if I stayed with them. So I did. I had the course to myself for the majority of the run after that. I caught up to 2 guys dressed as lumberjacks (in tights) and decided to work with each other to improve our times. They set the pace for uphills (my weakness) and took I charge of the downhill. This worked well until around the 9 mile mark. One of them was slowing down and having a hard time on one of the obstacles so I had to go to make sure I could get a decent time. I ended up getting 1:55. It was enough to qualify.
So I have spent the rest of the time training. I was already in decent running shape. I had done a full marathon in Death Valley February 4 and did this TM on February 25. Since then, I did the Scorpion Warrior (8th place, but my timing chip malfunctioned), Red Rock Canyon 1/2 Marathon, RhinO-Course (1st place-Extreme Endurance-Most Laps/Obstacles), XTERRA 21km Trail Race (3rd in Age Division), Kaiser-Permenente Colfax Marathon in Denver, CO, 4th of July 5k Blast (13th overall), RhinO Night Course-25k Extreme Course (3rd overall), Lake Tahoe TM (ran it twice), Las Vegas TM (ran it one and a half laps), the Warrior Dash (8/3202) and most recently ran a half marathon dressed as Wolverine (part of a 54+mile weekend). I am pretty sure that I am somewhere near the 1000 mile mark. I can check if I feel like adding it up.
I did most of my training on a budget. I do not belong to a gym. I have spent more time running in Red Rock Canyon than I can imagine. I am very fortunate to have it so close. The Iron Gym that hangs in my door frame of my bathroom has been one of the most used pieces of equipment I own. If there is something on Groupon or Living Social that I feel will be helpful, like a months membership at an indoor rock climbing center, I may purchase it. You don’t need to have a lot of money to be in shape. Be creative. I am lucky enough to have several playgrounds within 3 miles of my house. I have run to 3 or 4 on several occasions to get a workout at each one. You don’t have to pay for a gym membership. When I had my tires changed, I asked to keep them so I can use them for training.
After the legs, actually, maybe even before the legs, is the core. You must have a strong core to be able to do this. There is going to be a lot of bending, twisting, climbing, and crawling. A strong core is what will keep you from hurting yourself. I do a lot of leg lifts while doing pull ups and various forms of planking.
The biggest change that I made was my eating habits. I read a few books this year and they really made me look at my eating habits and decide to alter them. The books I read were “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll, and “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. I’m not going to get into detail about all three, but essentially, eating healthy allows your body to do amazing things. My wife and I have essentially taken out animal products from our diet. Some will call it Vegan, but I prefer plant-based. And yes, I cheat, on occasion. Since we made the switch, the improvement was very noticeable. I could go out for a 15 mile run and be able to do it again the next day. My legs (almost) don’t get sore anymore. I have even been taking on a lot more hills to get my legs stronger and to work on my endurance. The plants help! I don’t use energy drinks or gels. I’ll take some trail mix and some sliced oranges!
I have my bags ready to go, my shirt with my supporters is printed, custom HooRags are being made, and I am done with training. I am still spending time doing Bikram Yoga, stretching, getting massages, and light running. But the hard stuff is over!
Now I have to worry about the weather. The forecast is 51/40. I am hoping to use my 3/2mm wetsuit for the whole race. If the temperatures end up getting higher than that, I may have to try running in thermal tights, neoprene tights/vest. I have a 6mm farmer John, but I really don’t want to have to put that on. For one, it is heavy and a little cumbersome. Second, if I’m wearing it, that means it’s REALLY cold! The rest of my equipment is pretty standard. 2 waterproof headlamps w/ extra batteries, strobe lights, 2 waterproof jackets, waterproof pants, 3 gloves (2 neoprene), scuba hood, 2 wetsuits, 4 sneakers, smartwool socks, thermal and moisture wicking tights for under wetsuit, and plenty of food (fruit, juice, Clif Bars, and Simple Fuel).
So what are my goals?
Ultimately, I want to do as many miles as my body will let me. Setting an actual “number of miles goal” is a little intimidating. I want to say that I will be able to do 60+ miles. That’s a lot considering the winner did 64 last year. I am be not going to this competition with any expectations other than knowing I will be miserable for 20+ hours. I have gone back and forth with my plan for running quite a bit. Do I try to go slow and steady the whole time and try not to sleep or do I run hard and sleep. I kept telling myself that I need to take it easy on the first lap. It will be very easy to get caught up in the excitement and just run hard. I have to conserve energy. However, the very first obstacle, most likely, will be the Insane Bolt. A 1/4 mile sprint to a wall that closes around 2 min 30 sec. It might be worth it to make the dash because those that don’t make it, have a penalty right off the bat. Making it through in time will also help reduce bottle-necking at obstacles past the wall. Sleep…I am not planning on it right now. In training, I have hit the wall around 6:30 am and had taken a 2 hour nap. I was refreshed and crushed the remaining 11 miles when I woke up. So I can’t rule out taking a nap. I will eat something in between each lap, but don’t want to stop for an extended break until my 3rd lap. It should be getting dark around that time and I might have to change wetsuits if it gets too cold. I’ll be carrying Clif Bars and fruit with me on the course, no hydration packs.
I am very fortunate to have a lot of support. My biggest supporter is my wife. She has been there by my side through all of this. She has run marathons with me, done hundreds of miles on the trails together, she is my massage therapist, created workout routines for me, driven the car while I ran through out the night, and always did it with a loving smile. Thank you, Jill. I wouldn’t be here without you. I love you so much! We are going to tear it up!
Good luck fellow Mudders! I look forward to meeting you!
Here are some pics from the last 10 months:
Feel free to check out some of my supporter’s web pages:
Follow me on my facebook page: My Journey to the World’s Toughest Mudder