Tough Mudder – Tampa 2011
They called it the Tampa, FL Tough Mudder but it was actually in Dade City which is about an hour away. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Tough Mudder their web site calls it “Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet.”
It’s a hardcore mud race that spans 11.5 miles and had 28 obstacles designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, grit and teamwork. It’s not “really” a race though, it’s actually a challenge just to finish and camaraderie is more important than your time.
If you’re an endurance athlete this is probably just your kind of event. As for me, this was way out of my comfort zone. Most recently I had been competing in powerlifting and consider myself to be more of an explosive athlete rather than an endurance guy.
That’s a damn good question. During the months leading up to the event I often asked why I wanted to put myself through this.
After all some of the obstacles included jumping in a tub of ice water and waiting for others to climb out, crawling underground in dark tunnels, climbing over Berlin Walls, schlepping through waist high mud and even sprinting up a half pipe (see video below). Did I mention the 11.5 miles? Well it’s worth mentioning again.
Any normal person would wonder why I’d want to do something like this. At first it was strictly peer pressure :) Some of my buddies over at Strength Camp Gym were all doing it and talked me into it. That got me signed up but I still had to find my own motivation.
The physical and mental CHALLENGE became my motivation.
I had not run more than 3-miles straight in the past five years so I knew I’d have to improve my long distance running. I was also carrying too much weight having taken advantage of the powerlifting lifestyle a bit so I’d have to drop some LBS to conquer this event. Those were cool incentives, but…..
When it comes down to it I wanted to do this event for myself. I wanted to prove to myself that I could accomplish this. You see ever since Baby Karina was born in March most of my life has revolved around taking care of others, working and helping out as much as physically possible.
The Tough Mudder event was just for me. Sure I’d be tested physically and mentally but I knew that when it was all said and done I’d be a stronger father and husband. The obstacles in a mud race can never compare to the obstacles and adversity you face in your everyday life. By crushing this event I’d be better equipped to be the solid rock that my family would rely on when times get tough and they do and will get tough.
Intensification vs. Simplification
Just to let you inside my head for a moment, I don’t know why I think this way. I don’t recall reading it anywhere or studying this.
During my training I would intensify the event making it seem extremely hard in my head. I would remind myself that I better be prepared because this was no joke. They make you sign a death waiver after all. If I got tired during training I’d remind myself that if I can’t fly through the workout I have no business doing the Tough Mudder.
I did this for a while and used it as my “running fuel”. It served me well for a while. I got to the point where I could run 9-miles straight. However as the event started getting closer intensifying it wasn’t working anymore because it was actually making me nervous.
That’s when it was time to start simplifying. I was prepared and ready so to get rid of the nerves I started simplifying the event by finding out of shape looking people looking in the event videos and telling myself if these dudes can do it, so can I. I had made up my mind that I was going to finish the event no matter what. Before the event even started I had decided I don’t care what happens I would finish no matter what. I had to.
CriticalBench reporter Ben Tatar and personal trainer Chris Wilson who is a high school buddy of mine did the event together with me on Sunday.
I can’t really explain this and I don’t know how it happened but I had my head in the right place the entire race. I never expected it to be easy so I wasn’t really surprised by anything.
My Strength Camp buddies had told me how hard it was so I wasn’t caught off guard.
I recall thinking to myself, “Man this is the perfect weather and I don’ think there’s any place I’d rather be in the entire world than right here right now, breathing this fresh air, getting exercise and enjoying good friends and the company of other determined tough mudders.”
We had to sign a waiver that said we wouldn’t bitch and complain and I laughed to myself a few times as I jogged past a few guys that were bitching and complaining.
Ben, Chris and I all made it to the end and helped each other and other participants out along the way. When I crossed the finish line I had such an adrenaline rush, I immediately jugged a beer with Chris and thought to myself that wasn’t so bad after all! Well, it must have been the adrenaline rush because I was walking like an 85-year old man later that night and realized I had sprained my knee a bit and has some pretty nice bruises on my forearms.
At 230 lbs I did an 11.5 mile mud race with obstacles. Who would have thought that I’d actually get comfortable being uncomfortable!
Oh one more huge key during the race. I never looked forward to the next phase or wondered when the race would end. I just tried to enjoy the experience and everything going on around me rather than looking forward to the future. In that state of mind it doesn’t really matter when or if it ends which for me was a much better mental state to be in. Now that it’s over I can look back and say, Wow that is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life!
If you’re going to do this event you may have different weaknesses than me. I’ve been lifting weights, heavy weights for that matter for over 20 years. On the other hand it had been since college that I had done any long distance running over 3-miles so that’s what I had to focus on.
Every week I’d get 2-3 long distance running sessions in. Typically I’d do one shorter and one longer run trying to improve each week in either distance or time.
Another thing I did was try to mimic the obstacles. Granted I couldn’t build monkey bars and hang ropes across gator infested waters but what I could do is run a mile and then immediately perform some high intensity resistance cardio.
Have you ever heard of Workout Finishers? Typically these are heavy weight / low volume circuits that you can add to the end of your workout instead of doing 45-minutes of steady state cardio. The problem with too much cardio is that you lose strength and muscle. Since Finishers only take 5-10 minutes and are super intense you spare the muscle you’ve been building while getting the fat burning benefits.
Now in my case I used them a little differently to mimic obstacles from the Tough Mudder. Like I said, I’d jog a mile than I’d perform a Finisher mini-workout for 5-10 minutes. Than I’d run the next mile followed by another finisher. I was able to do 6-miles with 6-finishers a few weeks before the race and I think this really helped me out a bunch.
The actual Finishers I used were created by strength coach Chandler Marchman who has a gym here in Tampa too. I’ve been visiting his gym on Wednesdays because he has tons of cool equipment and is always dropping knowledge on me so it’s an awesome place to hang out.