5 Tips to Tackling a Toughest Mudder
With Toughest Mudder fresh in our minds from this past weekend, we figured we'd put together a recap including a behind the scenes look at what it's like from the pit, 5 tips to tackling a Toughest Mudder, and then we talk a little bit about the differences we saw between our experience at a 2017 Toughest Mudder (South - Atlanta) vs 2018 Toughest Mudder (East - Boston).
What is a "Toughest" Mudder?
I'm sure if you're reading this, you probably have some idea of what a Toughest Mudder is, and definitely know what a standard Tough Mudder is. Last year, Tough Mudder expanded it's line of race suffixes, adding Tougher, and Toughest to it's line up, Toughest being their 8 hour over night event, and a lead up to their championship race, Worlds Toughest Mudder.
Basically, you start at midnight, and have until 8:30 AM to complete as many laps of a 5 mile course as possible.
Thinking about taking a crack at it? Here are some quick tips to follow.
Five Tips to Tackling a Toughest Mudder
1. Have Your Training Dialed In - In an 8 hour endurance event, building an aerobic base, building weekly duration/miles, and overall time on feet will be most important. As Christopher and I mention in the video above, there are other options to purely building miles. While it will take a long time to safely build up to the point of doing 2-3 hour long runs, it's much more feasible to build a long effort run/hike. You can do this on trails if you have elevation near you, or on a treadmill. I personally would do workouts like, run one hour to the gym, hop on a treadmill and walk at ~3 mph on a 15% incline treadmill, then run one hour home. You can put in hour+ long efforts on an incline treadmill and while it won't necessarily have your heart rate as high as if you were running, it will still help build a base, and won't be as hard on your joints.
2. Be Prepared with the Gear You Pack - Here is a sample gear list, based off what I brought to Toughest Mudder East this past weekend:
- Photo ID
- Trail shoes with good traction (x2 pairs)
- Comfortable racing socks (x2 pairs)
- Compression shorts/pants (I wear Human Octane)
- Long sleeve rash guard (I've found a lot of success with this, wearing it for both Toughest Mudder's I've done, allowing me to not need to wear a wetsuit)
- Watch (I don't clock GPS, just use it to know what time it is, and figure out how long my laps are taking)
- Headlamp x2 (I have two of this model by Black Diamond)
- Strobe light (you need to wear a blinking light in addition to a headlamp - grab a couple of these: Nathan Strobe Light )
- Headband (it can feel better to have the headlamp rest on top of a headband than your forehead)
- Hydration pack (I use this almost equally to bring nutrition/salt pills along with me, as I do actually for the water)
- Nutrition (more about that in our next tip)
- Water, sports drinks, coconut water, etc.
- Wetsuit (just incase - usually a full or short sleeves/shorts @ 2-3mm)
- Bug spray
- Clothes to change into after the race
- Trash bag (for your dirty gear after the race)
- First aid kit
- Bin to put everything in
You will not necessarily need everything on this list (I didn't), but if I've learned one thing over the years of participating in obstacle course races, it's that I'd rather be safe than sorry.
3. Have a Nutrition Plan - this is arguably the most important tip for any 3+ hour race. The key is, that you aren't going to just come up with an out of the blue plan, and implement it during the race. You need to start with something that you think will work, implement it into your long runs weeks out from your big race, and tweak it week by week, and race by race.
I started crafting my long duration nutrition plan while training for my first ultra (Montreal Ultra Beast 2016 - which I write about in detail here). Two years later, a lot of what I started off with are still the same, but I've perfected it over time. That is the ultimate goal. Going into a race, knowing what you're going to eat, when you're going to eat it, and that your body will respond well to what you're feeding it.
Ultimately, things can change during a long race. Your body isn't always going to be predictable, but you want to be as close to predictability as possible. I also advise bringing some foods that aren't part of you "eat this every X minutes" plan, because 6 hours into the race you may have be desperate to eat something other than what's in your plan.
My plan for Toughest Mudder is as followed:
- 1/2 pack of Clif Bloks every 30 minutes, starting at the first 30 minutes (100 calories per half pack)
- 1/2 peanut butter + jelly sandwich after every lap, except the first lap (~160 calories)
- Salt pill, 1 every hour(ish) - this one depends on what brand/dose of the salt pill, and how much you're sweating
- Water, whenever I eat something, take a salt pill, or feel thirsty
- FITAID & coconut water
- Other options to eat if I want something different - (trail mix, gummy bears, etc)
Start somewhere, start experimenting during your long runs, and keep tweaking until you find what works for you!
4. Have Someone to Crew For You - this is not an absolute must, but it helps. There are two different levels to crewing:
Level 1 - The person is there mostly for moral support, and for odds & ends things that the racer might need when they come back into the pit. They're there to raise your spirits, make sure you're sticking to your nutrition plan, help change your shoes/socks if you need a shoe change, tie things, open things, help with first aid, help drive you home.
Level 2 - The person is there to maximize efficiency in the pit. They know exactly what your goals are, what your nutrition plan is, how long you need to hit each lap in, etc. They make sure that when you come into the pit, you don't need to think about anything, you just eat what they tell you to eat, put the supplies you need for this next lap in your pocket, and they send you on your way. This is more applicable for someone that is trying to hit a lofty mileage goal, or is in contention for a top spot.
Either way, having someone there really helps at 5 in the morning when you've been basically alone with your thoughts for the last 5 hours. If you can get someone to stay up all night, I definitely recommend bringing them along.
5. Have Fun, and Help Your Fellow Mudder - if you watched our OCR BEASTV episode on this, we kind of got cut off a bit with the points we were trying to make. Here is what we're trying to say:
Have Fun - don't let mileage goals dictate your entire race. There are some ridiculously fun obstacles that you get to do over and over, remind yourself that as much as you're suffering, you paid to do this, because you love it!
Help your Fellow Mudder - there are certain Tough Mudder obstacles that require you to use teamwork in order to accomplish the obstacle, like Block Ness Monster, and Everest. In the case of Block Ness Monster, here is the basic protocol if you haven't done a Tough Mudder before:
- You jump in the dirty water and approach the first Block Ness obstacle
- You, and whoever is around you, is pushing up on the structure to get it spinning. Since you just jumped in, you're continuing to push while others (that got there before you) are riding the momentum of the block over to the other side.
- After you push a few times, and a few Mudders that got there before you are over, you assess if it's your turn to go, and then you jump up to grab the upper edge, and the Mudders that got into the water after you, are helping to push you over.
- There are usually 2 Block Ness objects per obstacle, so now you repeat the process above
Some people stay at obstacles like this and help dozens of people before helping themselves. That's cool too. Just don't be the guy that jumps into the pool and is immediately the first guy going up and over Block Ness (I saw a few).
Be Present - stay mindful. On the obstacles, running through the trails, etc. Be in the moment, realize what you're doing, have fun, be safe.
Have questions about Toughest Mudder? Did you find this article helpful? I'd love to know!
And subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos to help you prepare for your next obstacle course race!