The more I compete, the more I realize how important it is to be mentally flexible leading up to an event. Last November, my apartment flooded six hours before flying out to Las Vegas. Prior to the Canadian Death Race in August, I got some kind of stomach bug. This year, I tweaked my back lifting my luggage. That’s right, after all my training leading up to this year’s WTM, after all the mountains climbed, miles run, hours grinding on the spin bike, after all the countless pull-ups, push-ups, crunches, burpees, bench presses, lunges, and squats…it was, of course, lifting my suitcase on the way out of my apartment that tweaked my back subsequently causing it to spasm for the two days leading up to the race. It’s incredible where my mind goes in those moments, and how hard it can be to stay focused and positive when it looks as though all that preparation and training is for naut, and that everything is about to come apart at the seams. Anyway, through mindfulness practice, muscle relaxants, and rolling around on a lacrosse ball, I managed to get my back (and mind) to settle down by race time and thankfully it never became an issue.
This year, Tough Mudder altered the WTM rules and race format yet again. The goal was still to run as many laps of the course as possible in 24 hours, but instead of a 10am start, the race would start at 2pm. There were also new obstacles, more time spent in the water, and more hills. There were also more penalty obstacles and one obstacle (King of the Swingers) where successful completion of the obstacle (hitting the bell) resulted in obtaining a “golden carabiner” that could be used to bypass one of four other designated obstacles on the course.
The golden carabiner
WTM veterans who had completed more than 100 miles in previous WTMs were allowed to register and setup in the pit early, so I managed to get a spot relatively close to where the start/finish line was. I was also close to the Outpost, the med tent, and a short distance from the toilets and showers.
Funnily enough, just before toeing the start line, I went for one last pre-race pee and smashed my knee on the door of the porta potty, resulting in an abrasion that would end up being the worst injury I incurred during the whole event. Apparently, I can deal with endless mud, inclines, cliffs, barbed wire, and electric shocks. Just don’t put me in a porta potty and ask me to find my way out. Those things are death traps and, apparently, are an Achilles heel for me.
So I’ll spare you the details of the obstacles themselves. There are plenty of good videos on YouTube you can look up. Here’s a preview of Tough Mudder’s video they put out the day after the race (the official video I imagine will be out a bit later):
And here’s someone’s POV video:
I have to admit, Tough Mudder did an excellent job with obstacles this year. They were all tough but doable (for me anyway). And some, like Roll the Dice, were feats of engineering genius. Royal Flush and Upper Decker (both forwards and backwards) were both awful, and by “awful” I mean they did a great job at bringing “the suck” (in the sport, this is our term for misery). The Cliff was also pretty cool to do at night (see below).
A new obstacle called “Operation” involved removing plastic rings from a hook using a long metal pole. If the pole touched the electrified edges of the hole in the wall (through which you inserted the pole), you received a pretty good shock (see the vids for an idea of what this “operation” looked like). Of course, they also had us stand in water while doing this so if one person got shock, the people around them would get one as well…nice touch.
This year, the biggest challenge for me was keeping my core temperature up. This normally isn’t a problem for me, but I really struggled this year, and I’m not totally sure why. Primarily, I think it was due to not having a thick enough wetsuit. I used a 2mm shorty and thought I’d be able to move fast enough to keep warm using that, and for the life of me, I just couldn’t. The wetsuit issue was especially problematic because we spent so much time in the water this year. After the first “obstacle-free” hour, we were constantly wet. That endless wetness, combined with the wind and plummeting temperatures overnight, made the basic task of staying moving on the course a significant challenge for me this time around. Moreover, I’m not sure if I was forcing down enough calories to move fast enough to stay warm. As a result, my lap times just got longer and longer as the race went on. Just moving for the full duration of the race was more effort than it should have been.
The pizzacakes in the Outpost, which were created and donated by the orphan tent, certainly helped with calorie consumption. I will now go on record as saying that this six-layer monster comprised of meat, cheese, and dough is the single greatest creation you can stumble across at 3am on a WTM course…well, since last year’s piecake, that is. Of course, having now discovered both pizzacake and piecake (see example photos below), I’m having endless, insatiable fantasies about having pizzacake for dinner followed by piecake for dessert. Thanks for that orphan tent.
In the end, I completed 11 laps for about 90kms (including penalties) in 24 hrs: 57 mins; and 36 seconds. The good news is because I didn’t go as fast as I normally would, I had no injuries (aside from a porta potty kicking the crap out of me) and incurred minimal wear and tear. As a result, I was back to my regular training six days post-WTM.
But here’s what I found most interesting about my WTM race this year: I felt indifferent about it afterward. In my opinion, if you’re feeling completely indifferent about doing another WTM immediately after having completed one – rather than saying definitively that you will or won’t do one ever again – well, maybe it’s time to never do one again. In other words, I think I’m getting bored of World’s Toughest Mudder and it’s time for me to move on.
That isn’t to say that WTM wasn’t an extremely challenging race; it most certainly was and will continue to be. Tough Mudder Headquarters is getting much better at executing this event every year and the competitiveness of the athletes is increasing exponentially each round. Tough Mudder once again pulled out all the stops for WTM and they seem to be aware of the need to keep evolving and reinventing their brand. Still, despite their ongoing development, I think I’m just bored of it. I’m not an elite competitor (I’m always riding the outer edge of the 90th percentile in these races), so it’s certainly not financially lucrative for me to be competing in it. Indeed, between the entry fee, equipment, travel costs, and endless training (meaning lost time at work), it’s an incredibly expensive event to prepare for and to compete in. The potential for serious injury is also high, and that’s not compatible with my long term objectives.
So I’m officially announcing my retirement from WTM. I may run the odd Tough Mudder here and there but I won’t be participating in another WTM. I love the energy and camaraderie in the WTM community, that goes without saying. The WTM race and the individuals who compete in it have served an incredibly important function in my life over the past few years, in my development both as a person and as an athlete. You folks will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope I will always be a part of your community. With that being said, I’m evolving as well and therefore need to move on by focusing on other races.
So what’s next for me? I have my sites set on the Sinister 7 Ultramarathon next July, which will be my first solo 100-mile run. I’ll use my performance at that race as a gauge for deciding future events.
I’ll also be deciding in the coming year what function this blog will serve (including whether to keep it active), since it has recently drifted somewhat from its original objective of raising awareness about mental health issues. If anyone has an suggestions or comments about the future of this blog, I would certainly welcome them.
Till next time, be well and keep striving!