World's Toughest Mudder - Worth the Madness/Memories/Money!

Published 11/19/2013

World’s Toughest Mudder was everything I expected and more!  The 5 mile course consisted of 22 obstacles, some of which I’d seen before and 8 that were new to me.  My goal heading into this event was to complete 10 laps and go the full 24 hours, here’s how it went down:

After listening to the rules, singing the national anthem, and taking the pledge, the mass start began at 10:00am Saturday.  I made a friend at the start area, Will from Southern Indiana.  This was his first Tough Mudder and he wanted to do 50 miles also!  I liked his style so we hung out for a while.

Laps 1-4 (10:00am – 3:19pm)

The first lap was a nice way to preview the course as we only had to run the route and were sent around the obstacles.  The conditions were perfect!  Funny moment right after the start was watching dozens of mudders stripping off their wetsuits or pulling up a fence to relieve themselves within the first half mile.  I was happy and comfortable in boardshorts, a rash guard, Vibrams, and my Neuty Oso shirt and headband!

Will and I cruised through the first 4 laps at a solid jogging pace.  The Mud Mile was cold and crowded and we were still figuring out the best way to descend the Berlin A Frame.  Running themotocross course was fun at this point as we hit the next bunch of obstacles.  Since I wasn’t wearing a Camelbak I decided to shoulder crawl the Kiss of Mud, Cliffhanger was quick and easy compared to the New England and Boston versions, and popping up over the Glory Blades was a piece of cake.

Wood Spider was a cool new obstacle that had us crawling through a culvert before climbing out of a chute using pipes to a cargo net descent.  After that, Tough Mudder’s version of the ANW’s Quad Steps, Mind the Gap, was fun and about as easy at they make it look on the show.  Rubbernecking, Twinkle Toes, and Just the Tip barely slowed us down before hitting the next new obstacle, Leap of Faith.  This was probably the most overall demanding one as you had to run and jump off a skinny plank over a large gap and land on a cargo net covered with a tumbling mat.  The second time I did it I essentially gave myself a firm backhand to the jaw when plopping on the mat!  More on this obstacle later…

Devil’s Beard was just a pain as always.  Hangin Tough was very slippery and I failed on my 3rd and 5th attempts.  Here’s #2 courtesy of Super Dave, Head of Support Crew:

The Boa Constrictor was uphill to a muddy crawl then downhill for a fun slide.  After spending some time running through the woods, we hit Funky Monkey and a fun but taxing Island Hopping.  The Mystery Obstacle was the Electric Eel.  If you answered a question right, you went through the un-charged section.  If you answered wrong, you went through the live section.  I got an A+ and never got shocked!  It pays to be wicked smart!

No disrespect to Los Neuty Osos, but I have to say, the Berlin walls are much quicker and easier when it’s just me!  We went back into the mucky woods again for the Log Bog Jog.  After vaulting over the Road Blocks, we both easily summited Everest before passing through the low walls at Climbax.

Laps 5-6 (4:05pm – 8:15pm)

At the start of the 4th lap I was getting a little cold so I ran ahead of Will.  Once I finished I put on my cold weather outfit: 3/5mm wetsuit, 2mm neoprene socks with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails, 5mm vented diving hood, strapped on the Camelbak, and squeezed my hands into waterproof gloves and headed out solo for round 5.

I started feeling some pain on the outside of my left knee while running the previous lap so I decided to walk for a while.  Things started to go less smoothly as I failed the harder option on Just the Tip (no footholds + large gap + thick gloves = fail), then had tough luck on Leap of Faith when I made the jump but the mat slid way down and I did my second full-submerging plunge in a matter of 5-10 minutes.  I was definitely displeased when I was directed to the penalty after the Leap.  “You had the faith but not the Leap” said the sign on the 1/2 Mile Penalty Loop full of small rolling hills.

The cold water and extra time was a blessing as it forced me to focus from then on.  My knee was acting up on the downhills so I really didn’t want to fail the Leap again.  I also shifted to the elbow swing technique on the super slippery rings:

Overall I was reasonably comfortable during this time.  The trails and muck were taking their toll on my knee but the pain was manageable and my body was still feeling strong on the obstacles.  While I had some conversations and met some cool mudders, I also had lots of alone time and enjoyed the peace and calmness of the foggy night under a nearly full moon!

Laps 7-8 (8:43pm – 1:17am)

I met up with Will in the Pit after my 6th lap.  He was a lap behind but hanging in there.  We decided to head back out together since, between his feet tearing him up and my knee barking pretty loud, we were both quite content with a walking pace.

We made our way through slow and steady.  By now we were both pros at the obstacles and got through them all without a problem.  I needed some assistance at Everest as my best gimpy gallop was not enough to get to the top on my own.

Wood Spider

Inside the Wood Spider (at left, Will bearing arms)

Lap 9 (1:51am – 4:01am)

I was back on my own for this one.  Will was rallying and I was going in the other direction.  Unfortunately, although my gear was doing its job and my muscles had plenty in the tank, my left knee was really hurting.  I diagnosed myself with severe IT band inflammation.  By now the pain was holding at a solid 5/10 and spiking around 8 on the downhills and woods.  I backpedaled on the downhills of the motocross track which definitely helped.  Later on I noticed a bunch of others doing it as well.  At this time, finding any mudder with a graceful gait was highly unlikely!

Although I wasn’t 100% “all there” for this lap, it is my most memorable!  The cool mud mile soothed my knee (my wetsuit only goes down to the top of my knee) but I had to breathe heavily into my diving hood during the painful spots right after the Berlin A Frame.  I was on autopilot for a while but was able to Mind the Gap and I kept my eyes wide open while crossing Twinkle Toes.  After playing it safe at Just the Tip I launched myself with all I had and landed in a sprawl/plank high up on the net at the Leap!

I chewed up mileage until reaching the most intense moment of the day.  Everest was desolate and there was no way I could rely on my leg to get to the top on my own.  I knew the Penalty Swim would be cold but it was only a half mile away from the Pit so I took it.  Unfortunately I couldn’t kick so for a solid 3-5 minutes I pulled on a thin rope and bounced on my toes in neck-high water to cross.  During that time I had the greatest moment of the entire experience!  At roughly 4:00am, completely alone and under a bright moon, shivering but breathing strong into my hood, I felt completely at peace!  In my preparation I had visualized myself in such a situation several times and it felt so incredibly gratifying!  “This is it!  And you are fine!”  At this point I was already several hours deep in conversation with myself!

After getting back on track I chatted with Dave (who is an absolute, rock solid trooper) as I floated numbly through Climbax on the way to the finish line.  Time for some rest before the last go ’round…

Lap 10 (8:12am – 10:29am)!

I took guilty pleasure in stripping off the cold weather outfit.  While I wanted to be out there eating up more laps, my IT band really needed a break and it felt so nice to dry off and warm up.  I was worried that I might stiffen up too much but it was a risk worth taking.  All snuggled up in my cozy sleeping bag, I chowed some pistachios, drank some water, and relaxed.  I probably got 3-4 short increments of sleep but felt refreshed by the time I got out.  My IT band was tighter than a guitar string but it got loose enough to get started.  In my swim skin and fresh Neuty Oso green bandana, I felt inspired setting out for the last lap of the day!

Will and I made it a threesome when we met up with O’Neill, a student at Princeton, originally from Eastern Tennessee.  Here are the photo and video highlights of our Sunday morning stroll in chronological order:

Berlin A Frame

Berlin A Frame

O’Neill and me at Twinkle Toes:

Just the Tip (That’s O’Neill voicing his concern):

Leap of Faith!

Island Hopping:


It was really important to me to make it up this!  Thanks again to Will for helping me up there!  O’Neill made it by the way!

The Finish Line:

That felt really, really good!

Overall, WTM was an incredible experience!  The high is still in full effect and I’m hoping that by the time I come down my IT band will be all better!  While that definitely put a damper on my day, it did not prevent me from achieving my goal!  In fact, that’s part of the challenge with completing an event like this.  I knew when setting the goal that a lot can happen in 50 miles, and a lot certainly did!  I’m especially happy with how I handled the obstacles.  In 10 laps I did 196 of them (Leap and Island Hoppin were each closed once).  I attempted all but Everest on Lap 9, and only failed on 5 others (Hangin Tough x 2, Just the Tip x 1, Leap of Faith x 1, Mind the Gap x 1).

So what did I learn from this latest Sufferfest?

  • MovNat is still the best! I was mindful and efficient through all of the obstacles and it definitely paid off!  I push-pull crawled on Island Hoppin and the Electric Eel, shoulder crawled Kiss of Mud, popped up over Glory Blades and the Berlin Walls, lateral swing traversed Just the Tip, split jumped to a forward sprawl at Leap of Faith, front swing traversed Hangin Tough, elbow crawled Boa Constrictor, power traversed Funky Monkey, vaulted over Road Blocks, and popped up/swung over the walls at Climbax!
  • The LbF minimalist approach to training passes another test with flying colors!  A strategic 3-4 hours/week was sufficient for this 24 hour event!
  • I should probably see my rolfer before taking on an event like this.
  • My nutrition strategy worked well but I should keep salt packets with me as I cramped up a little during laps 3-5.  Of course, cramping did seem to ease the pain in my IT band so it was a disturbingly welcome distraction.
  • Mental toughness trumps all other forms!  Thankfully I had the right mindset heading into this thing and although I’m hurting as I type this, my injuries will heal and I’ll be able to say I met a goal in spite of significant pain and suffering!  Or in other words, blah blah blah, grit and balls, blah blah blah.

Thanks again to my Super Support Crew, Dave, my partners in mud, Will and O’Neill, and everyone who sent good vibrations my way on the course or in their thoughts!  I am so thankful for all of the positive people in my life!  Thinking of you really helped me endure this badass event!


#10 Done!

The Gear

The Gear

Oh and by the way I took a lovely warm shower after finishing!  It was fantastically comfortable, but I did end it cool!

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