Melissa Dugan better known to friends as Melissa “Sharkbait” Dugan has been a fixture on the Tough Mudder scene as well in the OCR community as a whole. This 31-year old from Virginia now finds her home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. During the work week she is a marketing director but on the weekends she can be found conquering all sorts of obstacle races. Learn more about Melissa.
How did you get involved in your sport?
I’m always up for a challenge! I had just started running in 2010 and was introduced to OCR (Obstacle Course Races) in 2011. Been hooked since. I just completed Worlds Toughest Mudder 2014 and that was my 20th Tough Mudder that I’ve ran. I also earned my Spartan Trifecta this year. Over the years I’ve done many other OCRs to include Battle Frog, Warrior Dash, Rugged Maniac, etc .
Were you always an athlete?
Not at all. This girl was a band geek and a wanna-be scientist. I didn’t even get active until my late 20’s. Better late then never!
What are some of your athletic achievements?
While I love all the different types of OCR races, Tough Mudder runs through my veins. It’s not about how long it took me to finish the course- it’s about the people along the way. The camaraderie, the teamwork. I enjoy the whole experience of a race- not just the finish line. What I consider my best achievement happened at the OCR World Championships this year. So many recognized athletes, known for their own specific races brands, competed. Because this event was only a few weeks away from Worlds Toughest Mudder, most Tough Mudder athletes didn’t compete in fear of injury before our 24-hour endurance race. Well I wasn’t missing the OCR World Championships for anything! It was the first race that united all OCR athletes and I couldn’t wait to experience it.
A fellow Mudder, Anne Clifford was there and racing in my age group. We paced each other well in the beginning and developed that unspoken bond of “you’re by my side to the end”. A couple of miles in we saw a down racer that hurt his ankle and Anne refused to leave him until help arrived. I knew then that she was my type of OCR gal! Fast forward and we were holding a good pace and did well on the obstacles-not ranking too bad in our age group up until mile 7 (the course was almost 9 miles long). We came upon a young woman limping badly- a previous knee injury had flared up. Of course we stopped and refused to leave her behind as she needed help with transferring some weight off of the knee to move forward.
As we limped along, a newbie to the OCR life, one of my best friends and chiropractor, Eric Mierjeweski caught up to us and immediately worked on her right on the course- even using a stick like a foam roller. All four of us finished the race together and all of us probably finished last in our respective age groups- but we could not have been any happier. I felt that Anne, Eric and myself were three of the very few athletes representing Tough Mudder and I knew our actions would make our Tough Mudder community proud. Unknown to any of us, the very humble, sweet young woman who hurt herself was Laura Messner- a prominent name for the Spartan series. So our little “team” received quite a bit of attention over the whole situation.
Let me be clear- I am still a competitor- I do like to go beast mode every once in a while. At the Washington DC Spartan Sprint this year I went full throttle (well, as much as I could on a recently torn ankle) and placed in top 5%- that was pretty awesome too.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
To get faster. I lost a lot of my speed after I tore ligaments in my ankle this past April. I am also working on distance endurance and upper body strength, and I plan to compete in as many races as I can in 2015.
Who is/are your inspiration?
Those who inspire me are the wounded vets that are still out there on these courses- physically or just in spirit. I represent Hoorah2Heroes and support the Wounded Warrior Project. I’m a military brat who grew up in a military town- I’ve had my heart aches of injuries and losses from war. I hold our Heroes to my heart during all my races.
I of course also have my celebrity-athlete crush: Deanna Blegg– I turn into a rambling idiot around her and she (affectionately) likes to call me Alligator instead of Sharkbait.
What is your most proud moment in sport?
Worlds Toughest Mudder for sure. 1200 competitors, less then 150 women- I placed 11th in my division and top 30% overall- and that’s while sustaining an injury at hour 12 (and ended up racing 25.5 hours). We started at 10 am on Saturday and by midnight a freak 8- hour sandstorm came upon us which lowered the temperatures to below freezing and had winds over 40 mph- I was told only 200 of us stayed on course during the storm. During the whole race I only sat down for 10 minutes to change shoes- it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I would not have been able to finish that race without the help and encouragement of my fellow racers.
What is your most proud moment in life?
When I moved from Virginia, where I was raised, to South Florida earlier this year. It was a big step for my career and the South Florida weather is much more conducive to my active lifestyle. Just a girl and a Uhaul- best one-way road trip ever!
How do you overcome a bad race or training day?
Redemption. Own the next race or training session. Always strive to be your best. Nothing’s better then your best. I also reach out to my racing friends and they help me along the way. One of my dearest friends Andrew Ekberg is notorious for grabbing his running shoes and joining me for a run when I tell him I’m not feeling it- and he does this virtually since he lives 1000 miles away.
What is your training routine like?
During peak training I’m working out 6 days a week, usually twice a day. A big mixture of running, Crossfit, strength training, rock climbing, swimming and hot yoga.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
Grab a buddy and have fun. It’s about the experience and the memories. I’ve made the strongest bonds with people out on these courses. Remember, those out there racing next to you are just as crazy as you are!
What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?
Pre-race is oatmeal or almond butter on chia seed bread. After? Whatever I can get my hands on- as much protein as I can get!
When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?
You’ll never find me inside. I’m climbing something, hiking, paddle boarding, skiing, sky diving- and my favorite, scuba diving with sharks. I love to spend time with my family- I adore my parents, my sisters are my best friends, and my little nephew has me wrapped around his finger.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
In the back of my mind I always hear Sean Corvelle, the voice of Tough Mudder, say “When was the last time you did something for the first time.” Gets me going every time.
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
My favorite coach, Cory Drumright-trainer at Camp Rhino in Las Vegas, always tells me when I’m dying from his workout or we are climbing an incredible hill during a race, “It’s an EASY day!”. This reminds me that my life rocks and even in that moment of misery- I’m loving every minute and that compared to a lot of people, this is indeed just an “easy” day.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
Work smart. Learn your body and what works for it. And the advice I NEVER take myself- rest and recovery are so so so important.
What is/are the races you are most looking forward to this year?
My First ever Spartan Vermont Ultrabeast and round two with Worlds Toughest Mudder- it’s on!
Any additional information you would like to share:
I’m blessed with an awesome job that includes traveling between Virginia (both beach and mountain areas), Las Vegas and throughout Florida. Not only do I get to train in all types of terrain but I get to constantly connect with all my racing friends and experience this great country of ours.
I know it’s cliche, but live life to its fullest. The happiest moment in my life was realizing I wasn’t scared of death anymore. I wasn’t scared because I realized I was living life with no regrets- and loving every minute.