Dirt in your skirt blog

Day 169… Changing it up

Posted on November 22, 2011 by Margaret Schlachter

I often use my blog to endorse the products and races I run. I feel when a product is good I should be able to share it with the world. I write about them because I believe in them. In fact, I spent hours yesterday crafting the post for last night about Hammer. When I write my race reviews I try to be honest and always find the good and bad within a race. Why do I do this, because I like to take the time to share what I have learned along my journey and if it helps one person later on great. However, when something really fires me up I think it is my duty to write about it.

This whole journey and this whole blog really got started because of one thing, Tough Mudder. I went into the Vermont Tough Mudder in May with no expectations of becoming a serious athlete again. I went in to see if I could do a 10 mile obstacle race. I also went into it thinking it was a race, my mistake, but for many it is a race and I was one of those people. I hiked, ran, traversed, swam, crawled, and dunked myself during those two and a half hours. I crossed the finish line proud being the 3rd women to finish that morning and among the top 20 or so men about of a field of over 250 to start in my heat.


I was proud at that point, and when I found out soon after I had qualified for World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM), I thought it meant something and seized the opportunity. According to their headquarters I had finished in the top 5% and had EARNED the chance to race in their championships in December. This is something I took very seriously. I started this blog to keep me accountable for training as I was in it alone this time. I started on a 50 Mile Ultra Marathon running program, and consulted a woman in California about it. Prior to TM I hadn’t run a race longer really than a 5K. This was a huge shift for me. I started to train six days a week planning out other races along the way. Ultimately, everything early on was with an eye on getting to WTM and being a finisher.

As the months have worn on and I have gained some experience my perspectives have changed a little. I am lucky enough to have been coached along by my training partner to get to a point physically I have never been at. I have an amazing trainer who keeps me on my toes each week. I am lucky enough to know people who have opened their brains and let me ask millions of questions about endurance racing, clothing, nutrition, etc. I am blessed to have a super support group in many ways who are willing to listen to all my manic concerns. I am fortunate to be supported by some great companies who believe in me as an athlete. I have worked hard to get to this point and I don’t think I would be without having done the TM in May and without qualifying me for WTM. It gave me the push to sign up for a dream goal, something on my bucket list namely the Death Race and let me know I could do it.

Here is what I need to really get off my chest, my opinion of Tough Mudder in the last month has really changed. The antics that I have seen with them as a company recently make me less and less excited about WTM. I know I can stay home and not show up, but that’s not who I am. When I commit to something I am going to see it through. Why has Tough Mudder fallen from such grace in my eyes, well it’s been a couple things compounding recently.

I have tried to stay away from much of the chatter in the forums lately as they pretty much just bring on unwanted and unneeded stress, but every once in a while when enough people make a noise about a topic I tune in. The first was after the Tri-State TM a couple weeks ago. I was keen to hear about how the course went as this is the same place WTM is to be held, as more and more stories arose about concerns of safety with some of the obstacles I did a little more digging.

The two biggest concerns of that day it seemed was lack of preparation by participants with the elements. That is purely my own problem and when it is time to race, if I fall into that category it’s my own damn fault. However, the second major concern was with some of the water depths on a few obstacles, namely the Funky Monkey and the Walk the Plank. (Please note I was not there I got reports from those who were there first hand.) My concern here is the number of injuries that resulted from the funky monkey, many noted that the water was not very deep and several people broke their ankles. Again, yes you need to know how to fall correctly, but isn’t it also the race organizers duty to make sure that the water depth is appropriate for the height of an obstacle. I heard a couple accounts where the walk the plank was not deep enough either and to make sure for WTM to really jump far off the platform. a follow racer corrected me after I published, Hey one comment, you got it backwards with walk the plank. They dug a huge trench right under the platform. Step off and fall straight in, and it was at least 10 ft deep (I didn’t tough bottom, while at many TMs, I do reach bottom). About 10 ft forward, the lake was walking depth. So, whatever you do, DON’T jump far unless things change.”  In my normal life I would never go cliff jumping without testing water depths first, when I get to a race I assume that the course designers have taken these precautions in the design and development as a professional organization. I guess lesson learned for me.

9:30AM EST

Today, the part that compelled me to write this post was about a wetsuit, yes its trivial and as I write this I realize I will sound like a ranting child but we are weeks away from a race, I happened to open up the World’s Toughest Mudder Facebook Group online this morning to see that a wetsuit had been added to required gear weeks out of the event. I am use to this sort of change in direction from races like the Death Race that are based around misdirection and confusion. I expect it and find it amusing. But what I do not find amusing is the seemingly lack of organization and direction leading up to WTM. On one page of their site this morning it said wetsuits were optional and another page it said it was mandatory. Tough Mudder is not the same as the Death Race, they have always laid it out, since the beginning they give you a map of the course on race day, they give you the information. It has not been in their model to make sweeping changes. So this morning whether it was a programer error or what for a little while, a wetsuit was mandatory. If you check the site now it’s optional.

12:30pm EST

So what does this all mean, why did I feel compelled to write this post, is it just self serving. For me I feel like this is a wake-up call about the company. My confidence in them as a race organizer is wavering, it could be a typo yes, but to a lot of people this race means something. It means a lot to people who thought they had qualified for something special, just to hear that everyone who asked for a wildcard spot got one. As an athlete, I felt like in May I earned my place at this race and have worked hard to show just why I earned my spot, when the wild card spots were opened to everyone I know who wanted in, it knocked down the feeling I had of qualifying for the event. I have been further knocked down with rules being amended and constantly changing, and the athletes not being communicated with. I am lucky enough to competed in other sports at high levels, coached successful athletes, and surround myself around a group of truly elite athletes, and this is the first time in my life I have heard of so many changes with such a lack of communication to the athletes.

So am I pulling out of WTM, NO. Will I still race, YES! I finish what I start. Am I happy with the changes and lack of communication, no. Will I adapt and move forward, yes. Has it fueled me a little more, definitely. I will show up on race day trained, prepared, with whatever equipment I need to be successful because I have taken the time, set my foundation for this race. However, as a racer I am not happy and as a consumer this will be my last Tough Mudder my entry in the spring can either go to a friend or I will be a DNS that day. After WTM I just cannot support a race organization who has a seeming disregard for their athletes. I am still thankful to Tough Mudder for pushing me the first step on my journey and to all the people I have met through the process but just cannot continue to support them as a race organization after December. I may lose some readers, that’s ok. I know I am being honest, honest with you as a reader and honest with myself. If we compromise our honesty and integrity then really what are we left with, nothing.