Monday, November 26, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder 2012

I saw grown men cry, and I saw Navy Seals quit. 
That is no joke and neither is this race.

The top 5% of finishers at every Tough Mudder race in the world are invited to compete in World's Toughest Mudder. This is a 24 hour competition on a Tough Mudder course with twice as many obstacles that have been amped up for just such an event. The winner is whoever finishes the most laps during the 24 hour period. 1300 showed up on November 17th 2012 for the most insane event of the year. 

Tents in the pit area.

I've always had a lot of endurance, but I really met my match with this race. It is always at the end of the year in New Jersey in order to add the element of sub-freezing temperatures. Tough Mudder says that the World's Toughest Mudder is a race to find the toughest man, woman, and 4-person team on the planet. After competing in this race, I am 100% confident that the winners are exactly that.
 All suited up before the race.

 The starting line.

The race was a whole different ball game than the regular Tough Mudder. It's one thing to run a 12 mile course with 20 obstacles as fast as you can and be done, and it's a completely different thing to run a similar course for 24 hours. Here's the 2012 course map:
For details on the obstacles, watch the first person video 
below of every obstacle filmed on a GoPro.

Race Recap:
My plan was to go out easy and run the whole 24 hours. I started the first lap at a nice controlled pace. After the first lap I went to my tent, drank a couple Gatorades, ate a couple Power Bars and set off to knock out my second lap before the sun went down. I made it through the first two laps in just under six hours. After the second lap I drank more Gatorade, ate some more food, changed my socks, and put on a swim cap under my neoprene hood. I also put on a half wetsuit over my full wetsuit (which turned out to be a bad idea), then set out. By this point my IT band tendinitis was flaring up pretty bad so I decided to take a nice slow jog on my third lap and just push through the pain. The sun went down at 5 pm and the temperature plummeted. I stopped at the two mile marker aid station and warmed up for a little bit. As soon as I hit the first water obstacle, things got real. I lost my headlamp in the water and spent about 10 minutes swimming around in 32 degree water trying to find it. After that, the cold really started to set it. I started shivering and I could feel myself losing my awareness. That's when I knew I was in trouble. I pushed through to the next aid station and tried to heat up, but I just couldn't stop shivering. I decided that instead of staying in the heated tent until I got warm, I just needed to push on (this is where my decision making skills went out the window completely). There were three more water obstacles right away, and I was starting to get seriously cold. I've always had a very high tolerance for the cold. I was always the guy getting dared to jump into frozen lakes and rivers completely naked in the middle of the night in mid winter. This was a kind of cold I'd never before experienced in all the crazy things I've done. Somehow I was able to push on through some kind of subconscious determination. Honestly I don't remember much until the medical tent right after the finish line where I was treated for hypothermia and eventually disqualified.

 Climbing over the Ladder to Hell.

Smoke Chute.
A 10 foot enclosed drop to a slide out into water.

 Climbing up a rope ladder on Skidmarked.

Everest. A 12 foot slippery quarter pipe.

I gave it everything I had so I've got no regrets. I could have stopped after it started getting cold and stayed in my tent until the morning, but that's not what I went out there to do. I went to push myself harder than ever before in my life for as long as possible so I could leave feeling confident in my performance.

 Just finishing Ladder to Hell Part 2.

 Going through the Mud Mile.

 Coming across Twinkle Toes.

 Swinging from ring to ring on Hangin' Tough.

 Coming through Electroshock Therapy.

 Pulling tires on Drag King.

Sprinting up Everest.

One thing that I felt good about was not failing on a single obstacle. I never had to do one of the penalties. I was well conditioned for the obstacles, but not as well conditioned for running the ultra marathon distance. If I were to do it again, I would train a lot harder for the distance. If I'd been able to keep a faster pace through the night, I could have kept my core temperature up.

 I ate and drank a lot at each aid station, but apparently not enough.

 One lap down, getting fueled up for lap 2.

Coming across the finish line after my second lap.

The winners did 9 laps. JY Pak who won last year took first again this year. The real surprise was the second place overall finisher Amelia Boone, who finished 9 laps as well just 9 minutes behind Pak. What a beast. Third place overall was also a woman. These two women simply dominated. The top team completed six laps.  

On-course clothing/gear:
Under armor leggings
Under armor shorts
Under armor short sleeve
Under armor long sleeve
Under armor hood
Under armor storm gloves
Full wetsuit 3mm
Half wetsuit 2mm
Neoprene socks 1.5mm
Neoprene gloves 3mm
Neoprene hood 6mm
Balega running socks
Runnings shoes
Running flats
Swim cap
Waterproof headlamps x3
Strobe flashers x3
Latex gloves
Waterproof running beanie

Pit Area clothing/gear:
Sleeping bag
Handwarmers x20
First aid kit
Space blankets
Space sleeping bag
Sports tape
Ace bandages
AAA batteries
Contractor garbage bags
Ziploc bags
Multi-tool knife
Glow sticks
Duct tape
Waterproof watch
Warm mittens
Warm hat

Pit Area Food:
Energy chews
Power bars
Energy gels
Canned fruit
Gatorade (one after each lap)
Protein bars (for after)
Peanut Butter and Bread

Things I wish I’d known:
1. The cold is the hardest obstacle. DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE IT. 
2. Get high neoprene socks. The ankle neoprene socks kept my feet plenty warm, but they let in a lot of dirt and rocks.
3. Get 5mm neoprene gloves that are a size larger than you need. They will protect your hands from the cold and the larger size will allow for increased circulation. Take them off for the obstacles where you need a good grip like Funky Monkey and Hangin' Tough.
4. Don’t wear a shorty wetsuit over a full wetsuit. Water gets trapped between the two and keeps you cold. Bring a 5, 6, or 7mm wetsuit to wear at night.
5. Make sure your headlamp is on tight (Quite a few people lost theirs on Walk the Plank). Put it around your neck on water obstacles and cargo net crawl.
6. Eat and drink as much as you can and then more at every aid station. Eat a full meal after each lap. You can expect to burn at least 2000 calories per lap, so you need to be eating that many as well.
7. Travel a day early so that you can sleep and rest as much as possible the day and night before the race.
8. Bring a lot of warm dry clothes and a dry towel for after each lap. Get some hand warmers started before a lap so they’re hot when you make it back to your tent. Take your wetsuit off (it’s a pain, but it’ll be worth it not to get disqualified for hypothermia) and put it in a bag with some hand warmers so it is warm when you put it back on.
9. If you’re shivering, stay in one of the heated aid tents every two miles AS LONG AS IT TAKES to get your core temperature back up.
10. It is better to run at night than during the day, just to keep your core temperature up.
11. Don't expect to go farther than you trained for. If you want to do 50 miles, train to run 50 miles.
12. Where to stay: the Crowne Plaza Monroe and the Marriott Courtyard Cranbury in South Brunswick are the closest, and will give you cheap rates as well as free breakfast if you tell them you're with the race.
13. If you're flying in, rent a car.

I found myself wondering somewhere through the third lap "What in the world am I doing? I am paying a ridiculous amount of money to kill myself." I told myself after spending almost 10 hours in various hypothermic states that I would never run this race again. Now the further I get from the event, the more I want to train harder and go out and kill it next year. Maybe I never got my decision making skills back...

Every obstacle on the course filmed on a GoPro Hero.
Subscribe to the YouTube channel calebsl1.

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