Let me start off by telling you how fun these races are. I've done three of them now and I'm ready for more. There are quite a few races to choose from nowadays, but no matter which one you choose, have fun with it.
I finished my first "Tough Mudder" this past weekend and I learned some valuable lessons about these races I thought I'd share. This particular race was 10.3 miles of rough terrain, mud, crazy obstacles, and I loved every hour of it. We did it as a team of four and it took us somewhere between 3 and 4 hours to complete and I'm not going to lie to you, it was pretty grueling.
Here are some things to think about as you prepare to tackle one of these runs:
1. DO IT AS A TEAM:
This is a must! Doing this by yourself would present a whole different set of challenges, but doing it as a team was awesome. We were there to motivate each other, help each other over, around and through obstacles and even talk each other out of skipping certain challenges. Whether it's with a group of friends or some co-workers, this is a great team building experience. I feel like we communicated as a team and I have a shared experience with these people that will last a long time. Thanks Team CrossFit 630, you guys rock!
2. SHOW UP EARLIER THAN YOU THINK:
These races are typically held in rural areas with not a ton of access. Roads in and out can be super congested. For instance, the "Tough Mudder" was welcoming over 12,000 participants into a town whos total population was about half that. We were corralled into a central parking lot, a.k.a. cornfield, and then bussed to the registration area. The bus lines were pretty unorganized and it took us nearly 45 minutes to even get on a bus. From there, it was pretty smooth sailing through registration. You get your race number bibs and markers to write your number on your arm. Go with the arm on this, I saw way too many dudes writing it on their foreheads. Probably not a good look at work on Monday with permanent marker on their domes.
You do sign up for a specific heat time to run with, but that appears to be just a loose guideline. We gave ourselves time enough to be there an hour earlier than our heat, but I think we ended up starting the race an hour to an hour and a half after our original time. After the bus situation, the registration, the group warm up, the national anthem and the several pep talks for some motivational speakers, we were off and running.
3. WEAR PROPER CLOTHING:
It was in the upper 50's, lower 60's temperature wise and that turned out to be perfect. It did get a little cold after some of the obstacles, but for the most part we were moving and it was great. The sun wasn't roasting us which was nice, but I did have a pretty awesome sunburn that night. Sunscreen is a must, even if it's overcast.
I chose to wear some long compression pants, shorts over them and a t-shirt. I was sooooo thankful that I wore those compression pants. They will save you a ton of knee damage. You'll be crawling under barbwire, in mud, over rocks and climbling rough terrain obstacles. If you have them, wear them. Granted, I still have some bruises, but as compared to some of my teammates, I choose wisely. We saw quite a few people actually wearing kneepads and gloves. Things are wet and muddy which equals slippery so I can see where gloves could come in handy, but to be honest, it's not something I'd choose to wear in the future. Grip wasn't a factor.
Be prepared to donate your shoes at the end of the race. I couldn't imagine wearing the ones I wore ever again. They were put to the test and held up great. I wore an older pair of my normal workout shoes. Reebok Nanos. They aren't your traditional running shoe, so if you have issues with your feet, and running long distances, go with some running shoes. Just know that this is probably their last race for you.
Luckily we remembered to tighten and double knot our shoes before we started. The mud is thick and we saw a ton of people losing shoes in the mud. We're talking within the first mile too. That would've sucked! There was also an interesting thing we noticed about some people's shoes as well. They used duct tape around the laces and around their ankles. Not only would this keep them on, but also act as a barrier to debris. This is a technique I'll be using next time. We had to stop in the middle of a river during the race to take off our shoes and socks for a clean out. Since you'll be in mud and water for some of the time, rocks will creep in. All of us had an incredible amount of soil and rocks even on the inside of our socks. I can't tell you how thankful I am that we decided to stop and do that clean out. Nothing sucks worse than running with a shoe full of gravel.
5. DO THE OBSTACLES TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY:
Try them! You may not be able to complete every obstacle by yourself, but that's what your teammates are for. The support you'll receive, not only from your team, but the other racers was great to be a part of. Everyone helping everyone in the spirit of completing it. Step outside of your comfort zone and kick ass. It won't be comfortable, but you knew that when you signed up. Take the challenges that are presented to you and take them on full force. You may have to convince one of your teammates to overcome some fears, but you'll do it as a team and you'll bee much happier when it's all said and done.
6. TRAINING LEADING UP TO THE RACE:
I definitely recommend some base of physical fitness before attempting one of these. 10.3 miles of running for our race was the most I've ever attempted at one time, but I'm proud that my training carried me through. My background of fitness is strictly CrossFit. The four of us all train at CrossFit 630 together. We were talking during the event about how happy we are that we train that type of methodology. It helped us prepare for the run, but also all the obstacles that we needed to navigate. A lot of the race was mental. Your mind telling you that you can't do something or that you need to stop, but CrossFit has given me the mental and physical strength to know I can do things I didn't think were possible. No matter what you do to prepare for one of these runs, do something, be active, push yourself. Whether you do something like CrossFit or run trails through your neighborhood, it's a good idea to give yourself some time to prep. (Read my previous blog post about starting CrossFit: 5-Easy Steps Couch to CrossFit)
7. POST RACE MUSTS:
Part of this goes back to preperation. Pack a bag with clean clothes, rubber sandals, a towel, baby wipes and some garbage bags. Trust me, you'll need it all. After you get done with the course and your coated in mud and water, the first thing to do is either; A. Grab your post race beer, or B. Wash all that gunk off, then grab the beer. I chose B. Races will have some sort of rinsing station that will allow you to get a majority of the dirt off, but then the baby wipes come in handy. You won't get the warm shower you were hoping for, but rinsing off and being able to change into some clean dry clothes is such a welcomed moment. Throw all your dirty stuff in a trash bag and wait until you get home to unleash that smell. From there, set your washer on sanitize mode and nuke those things. Some rubber floor mats or some extra trash bags for your car ride home isn't a bad idea either.
High five and hug the people you just completed the challenge with. Enjoy those post race beers and be very proud of the feat you just accopmlished. Not everyone has the guts to try one of these races, wear it like a badge of honor. Rock your "Finisher" t-shirt and run to sign up for the next one, maybe I'll see you there.
670 W. 5th Ave Unit 108
Naperville, IL 60563