I did my first Tough Mudder event in the Poconos this weekend with my buddies Derek and Mark. It was awesome. I have a lot of friends who seem interested so I thought it’d be useful to highlight things which I would have liked to know going into the event.
Dude 12 miles!? – The average Tough Mudder is around 12 miles, but you don’t need to be able to run 12 miles straight to finish it. Between the rocky terrain, obstacles and bottlenecks, it was next to impossible to run the entire thing. If you’re goal is to finish completing all the obstacles doing light jog the entire time, you should be able to pull this off if you can run 6 miles straight.
Strength Training is Important – The main focus of my training was cardio. I trained for the event like I was doing a half and scattered in strength training just to maintain what I had.
To be honest, I was surprised how strong you needed to be to complete some of the obstacles. The challenging ones that come to mind were scaling 10 ft high walls and carrying a log on your back for about a ¼ mile. To complete these without help or sandbagging the log you chose, you need to be pretty damn strong.
To prospective mudders: don’t just focus on “12 miles” and forego strength training. It’s definitely important.
For Most People, It’s Not A Race – The folks at Tough Mudder explicitly say “This is not a race.” It’s a challenge to be completed with friends for 99.9% of contestants. I’d say 90% of contestants didn’t run the entire time between obstacles due to injuries, terrain, cramps, waiting for teammates, endurance, etc. You can also skip any obstacle if you want. I didn’t see many people skipping the obstacles though. They’re the best part.
Rocky Road – The course included pretty rocky terrain. At times it seemed like we were running in a ravine. This made it nearly impossible to run at times unless you wanted to willingly sacrifice your ankles to the Mudder gods.
When I saw guys before the race with their ankles taped, I felt like saying handing them a gym class all star handband. In retrospect, these guys were smart and I definitely advise people with poor ankle history to get their tape on.
Bottlenecks – Apparently 5,000 people run the course each race day. As a result, some of the slower, more individual obstacles ended up being bottlenecks. You’d get there and have to wait 10 minutes before doing it.
If your goal is to run this competitively and fast, you should try to get a start time first thing in the morning. There should be less of a log jam at some of the obstacles.
Coal Miner Cam and Photos – Many of the coolest things we saw were off the grid. If you want to capture these, I saw a few guys rocking cameras on their heads. I’m not sure how comfortable these things are or if you’ll make fast friends wearing them, but seems like the best way to get some great photos on the fly.
Cramps – 2/3 of my team got muscle cramps during the race. When you’re moving for 3+ hours it’s bound to happen. Prior to the race it’s probably a good idea to take some potassium or eat a few bananas. I’ll definitely be doing this next time.
Starting Time – You’re assigned a starting time according to your preferences when you sign up.
You’re not bound to this time. Once you’re at the event you can really start at whichever 20 minute interval you want. I highlight this because we were a bit stressed out about our entire team getting there on time. We ended up running 40 minutes later than we were supposed to and it was no big deal.
For everyone’s sake its probably best to start at your recommended time, but don’t sweat it if you can’t.
Parking – Parking was a 25 minute hike from the actual course. We definitely didn’t allot time for this in our planning. If you’re going to stiff-arm the recommendation to arrive 2 hours earlier, you should see what the parking situation is. It will save you some unexpected headaches/stress when you get there.
Things I wish I brought for afterwards:
- Towel – Following the race there’s an area you can hose yourself off. This was great, but we all forgot towels…nothing feels better than being dry and warm after this race.
- Sandals – Putting on socks and shoes is a bad move when you’re still wet and muddy.
- Gum – Your mouth is pretty nasty after the race
Overall Tough Mudder was an awesome experience I highly recommend to anyone. It was a ton of fun and reinvigorated my workouts for the months leading up to it. This will definitely not be my last one!
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