With only two weeks left until my main course, the Canadian Death Race (on August 3rd-4th), I decided to take on Tough Mudder Minnesota as an appetizer. My training runs on the weekends have typically been around 20 to 45 kilometers long, much longer than the usual 17-km Tough Mudder course, but I was itching to get back into the racing mindset. Not to mention, TM’s are a lot of fun. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to get out to some other TM’s locations this year, like Toronto, Whistler, and Las Vegas, and even do some Spartan Races, TM Minni is all I could manage. This year, I would be running it with a couple of buddies: one who had run TM Minni with me last year, and another, who was a greenhorn to the TM scene.
We fled the city around noon on Friday, zipped across the US border, and began heading south to Minneapolis (a roughly 8-hour drive including gas and meal stops). Around 7pm, we stopped at Grizzly’s Wood Fire Grill in St. Cloud, the exact same spot we hit last year, for what turned out to be seriously disgusting pasta. Well, it wasn’t necessarily disgusting but it was greasy and that’s just not good the night before a race. Our server could probably smell the Canadian on us (an exotic potpourri of beaver pelt, curling rink, and maple syrup) and asked us where we were headed. “Obstacle course racing”, was the response. Waitress….*blank stare…crickets chirping*….”We’re doing the Tough Mudder” I added. “Oh,” she replied, “I just did the Warrior Dash a while ago”. Sheesh, has anyone out there not done an OCR?
We arrived in downtown Minneapolis just before 9.30pm, checked into the Crown Plaza Hotel, and settled into our room on the 16th floor. This was “the quiet floor” according to the girl at the front desk. Apparently we look old and prefer quiet floors. We hit the hay, totally bagged from the drive down. Eating greasy pasta and singing Christmas songs for eight hours is a lot of work, you know…especially for old people.
7am arrived quickly. Funny how I seem to wake up at 7am every day, with no alarm, regardless of where I am (again, a symptom of old age). We were slotted for the 12:30pm heat, so there was no real rush to get out to the race grounds that morning. I ate a granola bar to hold me off until I could my two toasted bagels and banana, which comprises my usual pre-race breakfast.
Although it’s labelled “Tough Mudder Minnesota”, the race actually takes place across the border, in Wisconsin, at the Somerset Amphitheatre, which is approximately an hour’s drive east of Minneapolis. We left the hotel around 9:30am so we’d have time to grab breakfast on the way and then register with a little time to spare. For breakfast, we ended up in, of all places, a little town called “Little Canada”. Our first attempt to locate the aforementioned bagels was at “Caribou Coffee” on “White Bear Avenue”. Hmmmmmm, these names, how stereotypically Canadian. I wondered, what other sorts of restaurants were there in Little Canada? Perhaps an “Igloo Ice Creamery” in “Poutine Place Mall” or a “Plaid Shirt Pizza” at the intersection of “Aboot Avenue” and “Socialized Medicine Boulevard”. Pity I didn’t have time to find out about these important details. There was a race to be run out there and bagels to be eaten beforehand. But where aboots were they?!
So not only did Caribou Coffee not serve bagels, but when I asked the guy behind the counter if they even served bagels he looked at me like I fell from space or something (“Hel-lowwww…wel-come to Eeeeaaarth…myyyy…name…is…Greg-gor-ryyyyyyy”). Which raises the question: Do they just not know what bagels are in Minnesota or was this guy just in desperate need a big cup of Caribou coffee to wake up? My hunch is the latter. I’ll be honest though, for a moment, I was tempted to take that guy for a ride: “Listen, Greg, I’m from Canada and I was really hoping to get a caribou egg omelette. You guys do have caribou eggs here, correct?”…but I thought better of it. Instead, we hopped on our dogsleds and left, using the stars as our guide, of course. [For all my American buddies/readers out there, you know I’m kidding, and that I love you. But stop naming places Little Canada and White Bear Avenue.]
To make a long story short, there were no bagels in Little Canada, which was bothersome to me. On race day, you try not to alter anything in your diet or your routine. Only eat what your body is used to eating. The only identifiable breakfast place I could see in Little Canada was under a big yellow sign labelled “Denny’s”. So here was the dilemma. On the one hand, I could try eating somewhere completely unknown to me and roll the dice that way. Or alternatively, I could roll the dice another way and eat at Denny’s, which is always predictably unpredictable. So we decided on Denny’s, which, in the end, turned out to be okay. I had a small bowl of fruit, a couple of pancakes, and a few pieces of toast. Safe.
We arrived in Somerset around 11:40am after sitting in road work and swing bridge traffic (in Stillwater, MN) for close to 30 minutes. We promptly parked and suited up (i.e., dressed down) for the race. In terms of my gear, I went with my trusty ASICS Gel Fuji Racers. These shoes are the bomb. Built with rapid-dry mesh and seven large drainage holes in the sole, they are ideal for use in water. On a warm day, combined with driWear socks, Fuji Racers go from 100% saturated with water to bone-dry in about four minutes. I also went with Under Armour shorts and an UA HeatGear shirt. The poly-blend HeatGear shirt was a total mistake. I even knew it would be a mistake ahead of time and wore it anyway (duh). Moisture wicking shirts or no shirt at all are always the way to go for these kinds of races. Anything else just bogs you down. I also snapped on my low-profile Spibelt running belt with a Gu Roctane (Island Nectars) gel tucked in it for a mid-race fuel up. We ventured over to the race registration area and dropped our bags.
After dropping our bags we didn’t have much time to wander around. We did a bit of a light stretch to loosen up (I never stretch much before a race) and made our way to the start line where I met up with the great “Start Line Sean” Corvelle.
[Above pic was taken post race]
As usual, Sean got everyone pumped up for the course, which is an integral aspect of the complete TM experience (what would a TM experience be without Sean?). Ironically, though, I prefer to stay pretty calm and quiet at the start of a race. My system is already surging with battery acid in the veins…I usually need to turn down the intensity at the start line so I’m not totally screwed up. When I’m about halfway through the course, that’s when I like to really switch it on. Hearing Sean’s voice on the mic did bring back some vivid memories of WTM back in Jersey. What an awesome experience that was.
So here was the TM Minni course:
I took it very slow for the first three miles but after that point I switched into training mode and completed the remaining 7+ miles at just under race pace. I didn’t push too hard at any one point though because I was committed to preserving myself for the CDR. The TM course was still surprisingly easy to complete. I guess I’m too habituated after WTM now. One thing I will say, though, is that they had the Electric Eel obstacle (the one where you crawl under the electrical wires) cranked and I got shocked more times (probably close to 12) on that one obstacle than I did in all of my previous TM and WTM experiences combined. That really caught me off guard…a nasty surprise. Each and every time I pulled myself forward, I got shocked. Thankfully, none of these shocks were on my head; just my back and legs. In the words of the great Charlie Murphy, my legs “was like linguine” after. [You’ll either get this joke or you won’t. If not, ignore and carry on.]
Here’s one guy’s YouTube video of that Electric Eel (Note: the language in this vid isn’t safe for kids or for work. Consider yourself warned). And another. Listen to those wires snapping…sounds like someone’s making popcorn in there.
The second Mud Mile was also a doozie. For one, because it was so much deeper than the first Mud Mile, and two, because it temporarily clogged the drainage holes in my ASICS making running nearly impossible. It felt like I was wearing lead blocks for shoes. I actually had to take them off and bang the mud out so they would somewhat drain again.
Nevertheless, after the slow start on the opening three miles, I completed the course in around 1 hour and 54 minutes and had no soreness, tightness, or injuries afterward. This is a very good thing…and what a difference from last year. It’s almost like training helps or something. Strange.
Here are some other vids of the race:
So there will be some official TM photos of me to come, but for now, this all I have.
So now I’m quickly shifting focus to the Canadian Death Race. Training this week will involve a combination of high-intensity, low-impact cardio, resistance training, and rest. I’ll likely fit in one more long run and then focus on a series of high intensity spin bike sessions. There will also be some swimming (yes, I’ve been cleared to swim again after those shoulder impingement issues), and a couple of sessions of low-rep, high-resistance weight training. To keep my legs functional, I’ve also been getting therapeutic massage and GTT treatment (a form of dry needling). GTT is always pleasant, you know, if you consider a sensation similar to getting hit with a bat over and over again to be pleasant. ITB tightness has been a recent problem so that’s the target of these treatments.
So, that’s where things are at. This weekend will involve some training and some equipment shopping. I’ll post more details about my race prep closer to the departure date. The adventure begins on the evening of Wednesday, July 31st, when I leave Winnipeg for the 1,734 km (~18-hour) drive to Grande Cache, Alberta to take this 125 km monster by the horns.
So am I getting nervous/excited/scared aboot CDR? You bet.