What Does it Take to be a Contender for World’s Toughest Mudder?
“Why would you want to do that?” That’s the first question I get when I talk to friends, family, and clients about World’s Toughest Mudder. It is usually followed up with a stern look of disapproval. “You’re going to get hurt” !
I can understand their reservations.
I have always felt awkward. I was born clumsy, last picked at dodge ball, and overweight into adulthood; hardly the pinnacle of athletic achievement. I spent most of my life next to the window with the most spectacular view, reading or painting in the best light.
As a hairstylist, I was infamous to my co-workers and clients for dropping combs and walking into work stations. When I passionately embraced Obstacle Course Racing, I developed a sense of confidence that I have never experienced before, thanks in part to finding a community with my shared insanity. I found the views once framed in windows standing at the top of mountains. I made sacrifices; I gave up alcohol and cigarettes for gear and race fees. My world blew wide open.
I committed to the World’s Toughest Mudder with the same excitement a young child might have over a trip to Disney World. The course was a dream of mine, and when the venue changed from Race Way Park to Lake Las Vegas, and removed qualifying guidelines for registration, I insisted that dream came true. If I didn’t possess the skills to finish as one of the top Mudders, why would I gleefully take on a being exposed to the elements of Lake Las Vegas: freezing water, rocky terrain, and extreme temperature fluctuations? Simple, it’s FUN.
In order to make the dream turn into a reality, I needed to be an expert on going from casual weekend warrior to OCR Ultra Runner. In the months leading up to WTM 2014, I
re-watched Youtube videos of past World’s Toughest Mudder events, read every blog on OCR, and tested out all the recommended gear I could find. Upon my arrival Thursday afternoon, I dragged an 80lb suitcase, stocked with brand new camping equipment the Eagle Scout at Cabela’s confidently recommended for a dessert camping trip, across the desert to base camp.
One of the BEST things I did in preparation for the Mudder was arrive in Las Vegas two days early. This allowed me to visit local superstores to get the nutrition and last minute items without worry that the shelves would be picked dry by Mudder Nation. I also got to enjoy soaking in a hot tub and reveled in a good night’s sleep. Working with an injury described as “one that ruins football players careers”, I needed every second of rest and relaxation I could get.
I had not considered the possibility that I could get injured prior to WTM2014. With the race occurring at the very end of the season, I wished I had spaced out my events more appropriately. While running the North Carolina Spartan Beast, I separated my right shoulder, rendering most of the upper half of my body completely useless just before the most intense obstacle race I would ever take on.
One thing I wish I had done was ship items beforehand. Dragging my luggage through the airport terminal was not the most useful way to warm-up, especially with one limb out of service. Once you arrive at WTM base camp, you are going to have to carry everything from the parking area (note: wheeled suitcases do not do well on rocky terrain). You can always have a package sent to your hotel or to a friend in the area before you arrive. Yes, sending things ahead will cost more money, but so will checking an 80lb bag. Plus, there is the added security of knowing IF the airline loses your luggage, most of the items for the race are waiting for you at your destination.
When did I truly ascend in Mudder Nation from the open waves to World’s Toughest Mudder Contender? I believe it was standing in the cab line at McCarran International airport in Las Vegas, my right arm in a sling and my left arm pulling an overweight leopard print suitcase. This was the point when sheer determination took over. In the face of failure, with limited mobility, and having not so much as run in weeks; I got off the plane and walked out to the cab line. When I arrived at WTM Base Camp to pick up my bib on Friday, the volunteer immediately pointed to my fashionable black arm sling and offered to switch my registration to Pit Crew. I didn’t know how I was going to run a 24 hour obstacle race without the use of my dominant arm, but I was determined to figure it out. That determination is why I wear my black headband with pride. The laps, weathering the dust storm that rolled in overnight, and leaping off a 35 ft cliff were the fun parts. Never giving up was the challenge.
In 2014, I learned all that separates World’s Toughest Mudders from the rest of Mudder Nation is the courage to commit to making WTM a part of life. As an adult onset athlete, there is always a fear of looking bad or getting hurt. I believe that Bruce Lee said it best
“Courage is not the absence of fear, it is a the ability to act in the presence of fear”