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What to Wear for a Mud Run

What_to_wear_for_a_mud_run-v2

What to wear for a mud run

So, you’ve signed up for your first mud run…now what?  Well, one of the most often asked questions from first-timers is: WHAT DO I WEAR FOR A MUD RUN!?!?  The truth is, you can wear just about anything or next to nothing.  I have never come across any “enforced” rules regarding things you can’t wear, except for full-on nakedness. Although I’ve seen some pretty elaborate costumes, the majority of mud runners wear your standard t-shits, shorts and shoes.  I’ve noticed that the top athletes that are focused on winning the event usually streak through the course wearing trail shoes and running shorts (you know, the really short kind that make non-runners slightly uncomfortable to be around), and that’s about it.  It’s easy to do when you have rock hard abs and chiseled arms and pecs.  For the rest of us that are “mostly” in shape, might I suggest a shirt?

Knowing what to wear for a mud run is pretty important, if you ask me. Usually the course is designed to push your limits and test your toughness. You really don’t want any wardrobe malfunctions to impede your progress. I’ve seen girls start the race in sexy yoga pants only to finish looking like a hot mess, with their pants completely stretched out barely able to walk, let alone run.  The soggy t-shirt that is stretched to the knees is also a pretty common sight.  Knowing what your uniform is made of is key.

 

What to wear for a mud run:

  1. Shirts and shorts should be made of  polyester or spandex (Dri-fit blend).   Do not wear anything made of cotton, as it soaks up water, adds weight and stretches.
  2. Spandex compression shorts.  These can be worn under your regular running shorts.  I highly recommend a pair of these, as they do a good job of keeping the mud and gravel out of your crotch and minimize chaffing.
  3. Running shoes.  Most people will recommend a good trail runner.  I wouldn’t advise going out and buying a new pair just for the event, but if you have an older pair ready for retirement, and you want them to go out in a blaze of glory, then use those.  I’ve run several 10 – 12 mile mud events in a pair of old road shoes with no issue.  Don’t wear cleats thinking your are going to get better traction.  You won’t.  Don’t try to duct-tape them on (for fear of losing them in the mud), it doesn’t work.
  4. Gloves are optional.  They work great on low crawls and going over walls.  They suck on monkey-bars.  Not a necessary item.
  5. Costumes.  If you are into dressing up…the sky is the limit!  People are very creative when it comes to the costumes.  Costumes are optional, but encouraged.

Final note:  Don’t wear anything that you don’t want destroyed.  You are going to take a beating…and so will your clothes.

 

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Tough Mudder Arizona

Tough Mudder logo

If you ask me, Tough Mudder is the pinnacle event of the mud running season in Arizona. There are tons of mud runs popping up all over, each promising a challenging course that will push you to your limit. This may be true for some, but there are only a few out there that truly deliver on that promise. Tough Mudder is one of them. At ~12 miles in length and  21 obstacles, the course will challenge…everyone.

Here is what Tough Mudder says about their event:

Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. With the most innovative courses, 700,000 inspiring participants worldwide to date, and more than $5 million raised for the Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder is the premier adventure challenge series in the world.

We arrive at the Mesa Proving Grounds early in the morning, even though our heat wasn’t until 11am.  I like hanging out, watching the other competitors, and just soaking up the atmosphere.  As usual, registration was a breeze, with basically no wait in line, and girls armed with black markers eager to tag you with your race number.  We find some of our group in the pre-arranged meeting area and watch some of the big guys toss a beer keg.  Some of the first runners are starting to come in, and we head over to the last obstacle to watch the dramatic finish.  It’s just as brutal as I remember it from last year.  10,000 volts is not kind to people, and that is exactly what Electro Shock Therapy delivers as you make your final dash for the finish line.

Tough_Mudder_StartAs our starting time approaches, we leave our gear at the bag drop, and make our way over to the staging area. Once over the 7 foot wall, it’s competitors only, and this is usually where reality sets in. The MC starts his roll and yet again delivers an amazing speech and really gets the crowd pumped. He instills in you that this is not a race, but an event. This is not about course time, but about camaraderie. We are one big team pushing through obstacles, some physical, some mental. After a few rounds of a guttural “OORAH!” the count down begins and before we know it, we are running through a cloud of orange smoke, knowing that we will be tested and pushed for the next 4 hours.

Tough_Mudder_Artic_EnemaAfter a pretty good run, the pack of several hundred thinned out, as it usually does.  The first main obstacle we come to is the Arctic Enema, a huge trough of ice water. Watching people’s faces contort as they hit the cold water was priceless.  Halfway through this obstacle is a large beam that forces you to submerge your head in order to continue to the other side. The trough was packed with enough ice that you have to push your way through it and pull yourself out. Jumping up and down we force ourselves to move in order to shake off the stinging cold. Another mile down the course, I am still finding ice cubes in my pocket!

Tough_Mudder_Artic_Enema Tough_Mudder_Berlin_Walls

Tough_Mudder_Cliff_Hanger We scale walls, crawl through the mud and run and run, as you would expect. This year there were two mud hills that are insanely slippery, and it takes some ingenuity to get to the top. Where do you get mud like this? There is absolutely zero traction, and we saw lots of human ladders and teammates crawling over one another. The best hill has a sweet mudslide down the back.  Don’t tell anyone, but I did this one twice.

Walk the Plank is a 15-20 foot leap into a deep mud-hole and comes much earlier on the course than last year. We had a few in our group that were not looking forward to this jump and even thought they might skip it.  After a quick free-fall we plunge into the cold, muddy water and swim for shore. Very proud to say everyone on our team faced their fears and conquered them. The only problem was out of the 4 GoPros on our team, we lost one. It sank to the bottom in full record mode. The water is too deep and murky to find anything, and we have to leave it and keep going.  We decide to try to retrieve it after the event.

Tough_Mudder_Walk_the_Plank

Tough_Mudder_Fire_Walker Seeing a column of smoke, I knew we were approaching the fire obstacle, and it was more intimidating than most.  Jumping over the line of burning logs sent you into a muddy hole about 5 feet below, and several runners stopped short only to back up for a second attempt.  It was one of the best fire obstacles I’d seen. Not sure what it is about running and jumping through fire and smoke, but people dig it.

Tough_Mudder_Fire_Walke

The Electric Eel was a new one for us–well, just different from last year–the difference being that it was turned on!  The Electric Eel is a 20 yard belly crawl though a foot of water and–oh, yeah!–electric wires overhead.  Pretty sure everyone got nailed at least 3 or 4 times before sliding out the other end.

Tough_Mudder_Eletric_eel

Tough_Mudder_Boa_ConstrictorThe Boa Constrictor can be mentally challenging for some, and physically for others, as you squeeze through a long tube and get dumped into yet another mud-hole.  That usually goes as planned, if you are not afraid of confined spaces, and our team seemed to handle this well.  The second tube is where it gets tough, as it is slightly angled up and all the mud and water makes for a slippery climb. One of our teammates is working his butt off, but the progress is slow.  The whole point of this event is to work together, and so I crawled back into the dark tube with just my feet sticking out. I am able to just barely reach Larry, and we clasp hands while Robert takes hold of my feet.  With one big pull, Robert yanks the both us out of that tube like a pro.  Pretty sure I’m 2 inches taller now.

Tough_Mudder_Water_Fence

The Tough Mudder crew really put together some great obstacles, and you can tell this is not their first rodeo. A lot of thought and time go into the build process for some of the obstacles, like the Funky Monkey and Hanging Tough. The biggest constructed obstacle has to be Everest, which is a 50 foot wide, 12 foot tall half-pipe, and it can be a struggle to reach its “summit.” A lot of team work comes into play as we scramble to pull one another up to the top.

Tough_Mudder_Hanging_Tough

Tough_Mudder_Everest

Tough_Mudder_Electro_Shock_TherapyAs always, the final obstacle is Tough Mudder’s most infamous. Electro-Shock Therapy is anything but therapeutic as you sprint though knee deep muddy water, jumping over hay bales, dodging dangling electrified wires that are impossible to avoid. It is hands down the most dreaded, the most feared thing out there. This obstacle is no joke, and when you get hit with the full 10,000 volts, it’s pretty much lights out. We all got together once we reached this final stage.  I could see the finish line through the tangle of wires, and tried to think of a plan for coming out on the other side, alive. Unbeknownst to me, the plan was to sprint through as fast as possible as our group takes off at top speed, and I follow. I enter the obstacle at top speed and clear the first hurdle and then…it all goes dark. In my mind, it is quiet and I am running… but not here, somewhere else. The best way to describe it, would be an out-of-body-experience. It feels like I was there, in my happy place, for several minute before the rush of sound and pure chaos floods over me. I am completely disoriented and survival instincts must have kicked in, because I am somehow on my feet again and running though, what feels like to me, a battlefield. I get the full brunt of it once more before spilling out the back end. What takes only 20 seconds to get through, feels like 20 minutes in my head. The first thing I realize was that I have lost my GoPro during my unconscious face-plant into the muddy water. I tell the staff member, and with a sly smile on his face, he invites me to go back in and get it. In my mind I say “No thank you, sir,” but what actually comes out of my mouth was language that should not be repeated here. Luckily, I see the strap float up near the side and he gives me  3 seconds to grab it before he turns the juice back on.

Tough_Mudder_Electro_Shock_Therapy

I receive my coveted orange TM headband, my free T-shirt,  find my team and take our finish line picture. Someone points out that I have an 8 inch piece of the braided wire hanging out of me.  It must have punctured my shirt and broke off and is most likely the reason I got nailed so hard.  I have to say, it’s the best souvenir I’ve ever gotten from one of these events, and one I’ll be keeping for a long time.

Tough_Mudder_Wounded_WarriorThis is truly a team event.  We were all pushed hard and overcame individual challenges as a team.  We have fun every year, because we build our team with good people and good friends, and we will continue to do it year after year.  People always ask why we do this.  It’s difficult to explain so we just tell them it’s Type Two Fun… it’s fun when it’s done.

-TTF

 

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Race Feedback:

Things that SUCKED!

Crazy, but I can’t recall one thing that I didn’t like.  After Electro-Shock Therapy it’s all a bit fuzzy.

Things that ROCKED!

  • Parking was great with zero wait in line.  Free parking if you had 4 or more in your carpool.
  • Registration was simple and quick.
  • Plenty of Porta-Jons.
  • FREE bag drop!!! Seriously!!! (other events should take note)
  • Starting line MC was awesome and very motivating.
  • Obstacles were everything I expected and more.
  • Music on the course, that was kinda cool.
  • Headband and t-shirt are both UnderArmor and good quality.
  • Everything seemed well organized and efficient.
  • A diver was able to recover Robert’s GoPro!  We have 90 minutes of  HD 1080P blackness to prove it.
Conclusion:  Tough Mudder is a well run event that does exactly what it said it would do…challenge you.  We’ll be back next year.  I just need to find a better way through that last obstacle.

 

 

World’s Toughest Mudder

Josh is, well, an animal. Not only did he complete the Arizona Tough Mudder, but he did well enough to qualify for the Worlds Toughest Mudder! This event is no joke. It’s a full Tough Mudder course with all the obstacles that extends just over 9 miles.  No big deal, right? Wrong! This is an endurance event where you complete as many laps as you can in 24 hours. It takes a special breed of person with the guts and grit to take on this course.  Josh Woods is one of those people.  Read his experience as he competes in the World’s Toughest Mudder:

While serving as a Technical Sergeant in the Air Force, every day seemed to be the same–wake up, go to work, do your job and go home. So after a few months of being home from deployment, I needed something to turn the “press-to test” light on again. Things were going just a bit too slow. Working out 3 times a day and getting paid for it might appear to be a dream job, but I was constantly trying to come up with new and more innovative ways to keep things exciting. I was ready for a new challenge, and that’s when I saw it. The answer was clear–a mud run. I was captivated, scared, intrigued and amazed by the idea of it. I decided that on my 38th birthday, I would compete in what was labeled “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.” I would run my first ever Arizona Tough Mudder obstacle race.

World's Toughest MudderNow forget everything you ever learned about fitness. Forget all the PE classes. Forget how to run for the military. This was a whole new animal in the fitness world. This challenge was for fun. It was also the longest ,hardest and most challenging run I would ever pay money to do.

I started reading the blogs and researching what a “mud runner” would need. I scoured the internet for clues–YouTube, Facebook, anything I could find. I looked up shoes, clothing and routines that might get me ready, and on Jan 15th at 10:20 am, I tried my luck at surviving–12.6 miles of over , under, around or through, and 2 hrs and 26 minutes of torture on my legs. Finally, I crossed through 10,000 volts to finish my adventure.

I was smoked.

I was proud and in awe of what I had accomplished. Every time I retold the story to my friends and family, I would get chills.


After the race, on a whim and curious to see how my time stacked up against the other competitors, I entered my finish time via Tough Mudder’s weblink. Surely I was wasting my time, right? Two weeks go by, and I received my notification–G-mail delivered from the gods. “Holy Crap!  I was invited to the World Finale.”

I knew I would be competing against elite athletes. Some of these guys do this for a living! So what does a pro do to stay pro? I was consumed with the details–what to eat, what to wear, how to train. I “friended” the champs and read their meticulous notes. Once I was as mentally as prepared as I could be, I was off to train my body. “Have you ever stayed up 24 hrs? Have you ever jumped in a pool of ice water after running the mile? Have you ever climbed the most unsafe structure you could find? Did you dive face first in every mud pit within 5 miles?” These thoughts consumed me, and I knew this training would be like no other.

Finally, it was race day. You know those butterflies you got as a kid when it was report card day? Yeah,  amplify that by a million. Walking down the starting line for the first time is something you won’t ever forget. You have ARRIVED! You realize that the world’s ELITE runners, gym owners, shoe companies, athletic apparel sponsors–EVERYONE–is watching.  And then, the countdown begins….

I woke at 6 a.m. on the day of the World’s Toughest Mudder. I swore I would sleep in to better acclimate for the next 24 hours, but that didn’t happen. I ate a light breakfast and suited up in “minimal gear.” With butterflies teasing my stomach, we piled into the car. It was a “warm” 29 degrees. Once we got to the site, I made my way to the ice covered abode that I had set up the day before. I wore level 3 fleece lined compression leggings,  2 mm wool socks to the knee, level 1 long sleeve compression top, 2/3 mm triathlon wet suit–extra stretchy–Salomon cross country trail shoes with speed laces, 2mm neoprene gloves with wrist cuff Velcro, 3 mm neoprene hood gaiter over a level 3 thermal head warmer, an assembled chest loaded pocket vest with utility lights and refuel kit under the bib of my new 1884 chest piece (race bib), and lastly my trusty ole faithful–my hard-earned original Tough Mudder headband.  Naked and dry, I’m 160 lbs. I was weighing in at about 175 lbs. loaded. It was a perfect transition from the 20lb vest I trained in.

At 8 a.m. all the “greats” started showing up–Pak-man..the previous year’s champion, Ray Upshaw–the guy is a walking tribute to the sport, and people I recognized only from Facebook and Obstacle magazines. Everyone was there, and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

All spectators are asked to exit at 9 a.m. We were then on our own, as our support structure for the next 24 hours had to remain 100 yards out of the way. I realized with sudden clarity that in the crowd of 1800-2000 people, I am alone. The mental game had begun, and the clock was winding down. In just a few short minutes, the gates of hell would be opened and a year’s worth of fury and preparation for a title would be unleashed. My only thought was, “I have to pee!”

At 10 a.m., we are off. Orange smoke cans peppered the track. The pitter patter of athletic shoes resounded in my ears, as screams of pride (and fear) permeated the air. I was calmly losing ground to the anxious. As I jogged pass the stands, I saw my wife and waved. When I realized that she had seen me as well, my heart was overjoyed and I felt not quite so alone. My race started, and my stride settled in. Only 9.7 miles to go for lap 1.

The first 3 miles  felt easy. I was fresh, strong, and quick. A lot of fails occurred, but I was warm and dry. My shoes worked great. I wasn’t wet. My grip was firm and sure. About halfway through,  I noticed the walkers starting.  It suddenly dawned on everyone that the leader was long gone, and 23 hrs were left to go. Better to get a strategy and survive, than to run another man’s race.

This is when Tough Mudder spirit kicks in. You see, not everyone is prepared. Some of the obstacles that are easy for some are impossible for others. You need help, and you offer help. That is how this group of competitors differs. We accept that we likely will not win,  but our confidence in our fellow athletes won’t allow us to leave them to end the day because they hit a wall–so, you help each other. That was how I ran into “my” running partner. I’ll spare the name for privacy reasons, but it’s who he is that is important. He is a previous Tough Mudder athlete. He knew the drill as well as I did. He knew the sacrifices and was prepared, yet a thing like a cramp in the calf can destroy everything. So we slowed our pace and did what people who run together do. We talked, and walked, and ran. We tackled every obstacle as a team and bitched and griped and complained, but we never whined. We finished that lap together. Success is not measured by the distance, but by the stride in which you achieve it. I last saw him heading for his pit. We split up for new ideas on our gear selection to tackle the next lap. I took 25 minutes rest and went back out for lap 2. I haven’t seen him since. We will meet again–sooner or later–someday.

      Worlds_toughest_Mudder-fence

At midnight, I was on lap 3, and 25 miles into a loooong race. I was tired, saturated to the bone with cold. The water at every turn has frozen over. The thought  of jumping into cold water terrified you. My grip was not as strong, and everything was muddy. Everything stunk. I failed more than I succeeded at this point, my mind replaying every step from the last time I ran this course, 4 hours earlier. “This wasn’t this hard last time,” I thought. I was tired of mud in my eyes. My hands didn’t work, and my toes were numb. My headlamp was cutting a path into the fog made by every breath of hot air I expelled. Cautiously, into the waist-deep black mud, I tread, knowing that the next step will likely toss me upside down. “The next obstacle is just ahead,” I think, “Keep going. No one likes a quitter. Keep going.  This isn’t so bad. Next obstacle.”  Then it was all just a blur.

About 12:45 a.m., somewhere around mile 6 or 7 on lap 3, I was faced with the fact that I couldn’t complete the obstacle in front of me, so by choice I opted for the ice water. In I went, without thinking. Out I came, without thinking. I was not steering anymore. It was all left, right, left… left, right, left… and I ended up in the medical tent.

I swaggered in to see about 20 guys all huddled around a heater vent–DRY. I was dripping wet, and no one was moving. I know why now. We were all delirious. I saw a guy pass out dead asleep in the standing position.

A rescue swimmer EMT walks up and says, “You okay?”

“Uh huh,” I answer.

He looks me in the eye and says ” If it’s the choice between smart and hero, choose smart.”  I knew he was right.  I was done.

He congratulated me on the hard effort and said he would call me a ride back in. I was ashamed, so I declined. I chose to walk in–off the course. At 14 hrs and 22 minutes, my World’s Toughest Mudder race ended. I walked into the pit area at 1 a.m. There were no crowds to welcome me. No applause. No one to wave adios to. I had run my own race.

I called my wife, and she returned to pick me up and gather my things. Hypothermia had me mumbling and drooling, but all I could think about after running for 14 hrs was, “Did I beat anyone else?” I looked around, and half the course pits were empty. I made it half way, and only half of the competitors were left. We packed my things, and I left the track for warmer weather.

In the end, I finished 951 of all entries, 132 in my age division, and completed a marathon’s distance over hill and dale through everything  you can imagine EXCEPT fire. I was the only Tucson AZ participant, and I finished 7 of 9 for the state of AZ.

I am a success.