There’s 24-hour endurance races and then there’s World’s Toughest Mudder; a 24-hour obstacle course race of epic proportions. Think a hot and dusty Nevada desert. Think lap after lap of the 5+ mile, 20-obstacle-heavy course from midday Saturday until midday Sunday. Think crazy obstacles. Think masses of water submersions. And a 30ft cliff jump. WAHHH.
It’s a test for the biggest names in elite obstacle course racing, so how does it feel to take part?
32-year-old paramedic, Tough Mudder lover and ordinary gal, Corinne Luckie, shares her experience.
Prior to World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) I’d never done a 24-hour event, let alone an obstacle course race over 24 hours. Although I’d planned a practice 24-hour race, I had to cancel it last-minute meaning I went into WTM completely new to this type of endurance. I knew I would be okay through the night due to working shifts as a paramedic, but I didn’t really know what it would be like trotting around the course at night. However I knew it wouldn’t matter who I ended up running with as the Tough Mudder community is super-friendly!
Arrival and shopping for supplies
We arrived on the Tuesday afternoon, giving us a few days to acclimatise and shop for essentials etc. A bit of a schedule had been created by Tough Mudder and the people in the WTM community page. Thursday night was a ‘food and play’ night at Camp Rhino, one of the local gyms. Friday morning was registration and pit set up. Friday evening was a community dinner at the Fiesta casino.
It was really nice to meet everyone at the community events as we’d all chatted online or had met at other TM events, but hadn’t caught up properly for ages. Excitement was building day by day, to the point where I was waking up very early each morning to get bits done! We’d shipped stuff like tents for the pit to our friends’ house (Phoebe, one of the other WTM competitors), but still had about four or five trips to Walmart to get all our supplies.
The course – top secret!
The only glimpse of the course prior to Friday morning was from the Lake Las Vegas resort where we were staying – you couldn’t get any closer to the course as it was kept very secret from prying eyes. In the weeks leading up to WTM, Tough Mudder had played a game with the map, releasing puzzle pieces that we earned as group by doing tasks online. WTM veterans were able to guess where parts of the course would be and explain certain bits as they came through. The map included the course route, obstacles and penalties.
Each lap was over 5 miles with 20 obstacles. At the beginning of the year I decided I’d like to go for 24 hours, then midway through the year the goal changed to trying to get to 50 miles. However the day before WTM, my goal changed back to getting the black headband and sticking it out for 24 hours plodding round that desert without getting disqualified!
Registering on Friday
Registration for WTM was on the Friday and was staggered in groups, depending on how many miles you’d clocked up at WTM before. As I was a first-timer, I was in the last group to register so got there early to be in the front of the queue. Once registered, you drove up to the event village and that’s when you went to hunt your pit space. The earlier you get there, the better pit space you get, which is why I got to registration early – newbies were the last to register at midday. Once your pit was set up, you could leave whatever kit you wanted there. We headed off and attended the community dinner at the Fiesta that night.
The next morning the pit area opened at 8am, so you could get everything organised and bring in all the kit you hadn’t wanted to leave overnight. We had a UK team photo at 10.00ish. Everyone had to load into the start chute by 11.20 ready for the briefing at 11.30 and the race set off at 12.00.
Race day! Lubing up and feeling nervous
I didn’t sleep very well the night before due to nerves and woke up really early, hoping adrenaline would get me through the event! There’d been a massive build up to the event so on the actual day, I just got up, ate some Lucky Charms, had a protein shake and some Rice Krispie Squares then headed down to the pit to get sorted. I’d applied Gurney Goo (anti-chafing/blister lube) the night before and slept in my kit so that I was super-lubed up and didn’t get any chafing. I reapplied that morning, with yet another application to my feet and underarms during the event.
I was very nervous before the start. We had a team photo at 10am and then went to line up at the start at about 11am so we were near the front of the crowd. Everyone sets off at once so a lot of dust is kicked up and it takes a while to get through the start, therefore the closer to the front, the better.
The event time was midday Saturday to midday Sunday but you had an hour and a half grace at the end to finish your lap. I ran from midday Saturday until about 12:30 on Sunday, with a few breaks between. However, we were down at our pit from about 8:30am Saturday morning and started queuing from 11am at the start. Being out in the desert for 30+ hours was very hot and drying!
5+ miles and 20 obstacles per lap
The first hour of the race is purely running, then after an hour the obstacles open. When we started in the midday desert sun my thoughts went something like this:
“Oh my god, what have I let myself in for. My legs already feel tired climbing this hill. I can’t breathe, there’s dust, it’s hot. So many people. I still can’t breathe. Where’s the top of this hill? I can’t breathe. Oh, there’s the top of the hill. Oh, it’s hot. How am I meant to breathe with this wrag on? There’s loads of dust. It’s hot, I can’t breathe….”
So it was mind over matter right from the get go. I was aiming to get round the first lap in an hour, and was so close! I knew I had a few minutes to get past the last obstacle, Kong, as I was running downhill, but the gong went just as I was approaching it, meaning I was one of the very first people on it!
This was really scary as Kong was a brand new obstacle. It involved a climb up to a high platform where you had to reach and swing across five hanging rings. It messed with your mind as you were quite high up and if you fell off you landed on an air bag… I swung out, but let go as I didn’t want to risk falling further along and having to land without my legs out in front of me. Because I fell, I had to do a penalty sandbag run on my first lap – oh well!
Lap one = heat and dust
At at the end of the first hour, I was very, very hot. I took my Camelbak, but without getting wet doing the obstacles I struggled with the heat and dust. I wore my wrag up around my face to try and avoid breathing in too much dust, but it only helped a small amount. People were running/walking and the camaraderie was good, with people helping each other climb the hills and get through tricky terrain. When I started my first full obstacle lap I managed to control my temperature much better and really started enjoying it. It was a bit daunting knowing I would be out there for 24-hours, but also exciting. I also enjoyed any penalties that involved swimming – my main strength! – plus getting in the water helped me to regulate my temperature as I needed to cool off!
Pit stops and being an ‘orphan’
All runners are allowed a pit crew – friends/family to help them when they come in from a lap. I didn’t have a pit crew – nobody to help me in the dark times at my own personal pit tent. Technically this is known as being an orphan…. not as bad as it sounds and the upside was I was able to go to the ‘orphan’ tent run by dedicated volunteers and get fed pizza, hehe! I wore an orange band on my bib, so other competitors knew I had no pit crew, and ‘orphan’ was on my tent too, so people could keep an eye on me. Other racers’ pit crews also helped me out when they saw me coming in – made sure I was warm and helped undo my wetsuit. The TM community are amazing; just another breed.
You had limitless time in the pit, so if you needed to rest, you rested. The only area with a time limit was the medical tent, where you were only allowed a total of 30 minutes in the 24 hours before you were disqualified. I didn’t need any medical, luckily! Volunteers checked you through the night to make sure you were fit enough to go out by asking some simple questions before you started each lap.
My favourite obstacle was a new one called Augustus Gloop which required us to swim under a cage (easier on your back so you can keep your face out of the water), then stand up inside the bottom of a tube, while water gushed in at the bottom. As I wear contact lenses, I had to do the obstacle with my eyes shut the whole time. Inside the tube, cut-outs allowed you to climb up, lean to your side and climb! Super easy and fun!
Some of the obstacles were from regular Tough Mudders, others were new. Statue of Liberty opened up at night and was a pleasant swim across a section of water while holding a flaming torch that you had to keep alight. Humpchuck involved a short swim after which you had to launch yourself up and over a wall from the water – much easier with help from others and quite tricky in a wetsuit! Stage 5 Clinger was a set of monkey bars where you had to pull up and over a lip onto the top, climb the next bit and down the other side. But after a while they added a cargo net to make it easier to get over the lip. Giant wedgie was a bit of fun, but liked snagging on your gear! It was a very high A-frame cargo net with a net over the top, so you went between the two. Many a strobe light pinged off there! The knack was to pop your head torch and strobe around your neck whilst you climbed up and down.
Twinkle Toes I managed to do every time, so avoided a penalty. It was a balance beam over water, but the balance beam wobbled and had different levels in the middle that you couldn’t quite fit your foot on so made it quite tricky. Everest had two options, 1.0 or 2.0 – if you chose the lower 1.0 you had a small penalty. Operation involved holding on to a metal pole whilst standing in water and trying to hook a small band from a back wall through a hole in the front wall – the problem was the hole was electrified…. eeeekkkk! I tried to make myself do but couldn’t and chose the penalty every time.
Did I do the 30ft cliff jump into water? HAHAHAHAH. No. I was shaking just thinking about this. The cliff opened at midnight so I bypassed it once by doing a penalty lap of 0.6 miles, then the next time I came round to it I was on my last lap and I wasn’t in the mileage zone to do it (had to be 75 miles or over).
Lap three and flippers for arms
On the third lap my arms felt like they had seized up; I lost my grip and my strength, and felt like I had two flippers on the ends of my arms! So with a lot of help from other people I completed the lap and decided I needed some chill out time in the pit to take on food and water and stretch out my forearms to help grip on the obstacles. I enjoyed putting on my Dryrobe and eating my food. I had a chair, so I wrapped up then sat and ate and drank. It was quite fun in the pit seeing everyone coming and going. People cheering you as you left the pit and climbed the hill at the top to run under the big A-frame… what a killer hill to get you going haha!
Once I’d recovered enough, I headed back out there.
In my pit I had a white board where I marked down my laps and times, and also my paracetamol/ibuprofen times so I didn’t overdose. It meant that my boyfriend Dan could look in my tent and see what time I started my lap and where I was up to and I could do the same with him. My parents had written me some letters which I kept until during the night to read. These were much needed words of encouragement to get me back out on the next lap.
Managing the temperature day to night
The temperature was hot when we started at midday, then dipped during the night and rose again the next day. I started in a Skins vest, my full length Skins tights and pair of shorts, as well as my Camelbak. I was hot, but I didn’t want to have to stop and put on full Skins after my first lap. After the first lap, I came into pit and switched into a white 2xu long-sleeved top to give me a bit of cover in case it cooled slightly. Following that, I came into pit and put on a thermal 2xu top and my Orca full wetsuit as it had started to go dark. I stayed like this until morning while wearing my comfy Salomon Fellraiser trail shoes with my Superfeet black insoles in. The only thing I added during the night was my lovely Bleggmit gloves, my wetsuit hood and my windbreaker.
A head torch and strobe light were mandatory kit when it was dark – I used a Black Diamond head torch which was really good with easy-to-change batteries. In the morning, I swapped out of all my clothes and put on new Skins, new 2xu top and my 2mm shorty wetsuit. During the night it wasn’t too windy and there was cloud cover so the temperature didn’t drop too much. It was quite a comfortable night.
Finishing: The relief and the mileage!
The best part of the event was the last lap. You had to be out on course or crossing the finish line at midday on the Sunday. On the last lap everyone was having fun and walking round together, including elite racers Jon Albon and Ryan Atkins (the winning team clocking up 100+ miles between them!) It was such a good laugh with everyone laughing and smiling. There were no massive egos – even if you’re an elite racer, you’re still running the same event as the beginners.
I didn’t do as many miles as I had hoped but I completed 24-hours, in the sense that I wasn’t disqualified. I managed to get 30 miles officially but with the penalties that worked out about 40 miles! I also had about 7 hours in the pit in big chunks – two hours where my arms had failed and then five hours between my two final laps. I was in the pit for shorter periods between each lap as well (I never carried straight on to another lap, as each lap was taking me a 2-3 hours at a time.)
I loved my World’s Toughest Mudder experience and have already signed up for 2017. I’m aiming for 50 miles. I hope my training works out and I can push myself to do this. Watch this space!
WORLD’S TOUGHEST MUDDER: TRAINING, TIPS AND ADVICE
WTM: How I trained
Training for the event mainly consisted of a lot of strength and conditioning work early in the year. I meant to carry this on throughout the year, but slacked off a bit as my obstacle course events increased throughout the season. I did between 30-40 OCR events through the year, mainly Tough Mudder but also other OCRs, which meant in the weekdays I was generally recovering from the weekend only to do it all over again within a few days. I’ve learnt my lesson though, so this year I’m doing less events and more gym/running work between so I can train better. I really enjoyed doing several classes back to back (like body combat, body pump, circuits, spin etc) as part of my training in my local gym.
Most of the strength and conditioning work was done with my PT and I gradually increased weight/resistance over a few weeks. I saw the results from that pretty quickly. My PT had me on a high fat diet which helped strip off a lot of excess fat from me while maintaining my muscle. I was on 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrate. This worked really well as I’m a pesco-vegetarian and could eat loads of fish and nuts and butter! I could only manage running about 10k on this sort of diet, so through the year I brought in more carbohydrates to keep my energy levels up. I trained with the food I planned to eat on course as well, doing multiple laps at Tough Mudders, generally doing two laps on a Saturday and one on a Sunday. In between laps I would eat Rice Krispie Squares, drink Honey Badger and have Ella’s Kitchen baby pouches! Knowing what you can eat when on course or in between in the pit is very important before going out to WTM. On the course I would have Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stinger energy gels.
What I wore: My Kit
My kit list was mainly made up from others people’s kit lists from previous years. I’d tested bits out prior to going to WTM so I knew what it would be like using them. My basic kit was full-length Skins tights and full-length 2xu top. From there I was able to add to my clothing if I needed. I had a windbreaker which was able to fit over my wetsuits along with three different wetsuits: a Roxy shorty 2mm, a tri 3/2mm Orca wetsuit and a 5/3mm Billabong Surf wetsuit.
In addition, I had Bleggmitts (awesome mitted gloves that keep your hands super-warm while allowing you to grip obstacles), neoprene socks and a hood, as well as Frogskins full length top and an Orca Heatseeker vest. I had various different shoes but I only wore my Salomon Fellraisers – I took two pairs of these. You need to know what’s comfy and what’s not. I can wear my Fellraisers all day, but I decided to have different insoles in them (Superfeet and another brand in another pair that were more cushioned.) I also had my Hokas and Asics with me in case. I had spares for most things, especially the head torch, strobes and batteries. My Dryrobe was the best thing for in the pit and was worth taking over, as well as a sleeping bag and hand warmers. I had stuff in my pit so I could fix myself medically and warm myself up, as I knew there was high chance of hypothermia if I started to get cold.
How I fuelled up: Lucky Charms, Honey Badger and Clif Shot Bloks
Before the event I ate some Lucky Charms, some Rice Krispie Squares, drank a protein shake, drank lots of water and also some Honey Badger (hydration and energy drinks) 45 minutes before starting the event. I took my Camelbak with me on my first lap with Honey Badger in too, as it was about 27 degrees that day at noon. During the event I had all sorts of supplies in my pit – easy to grab and eat stuff. Drinks-wise I had water, premixed Honey Badger and some ginger ale (this was so I had different tastes and could feel a bit better through the 24 hours.) To eat, I had Ella’s Kitchen baby pouches, Poptarts, Rice Krispie Squares, jam and peanut butter rolls, Clif Bars, cinnamon almonds, macaroni cheese pots, M&M’s, jelly beans as well as my normal Clif Shot Bloks and Honey Stinger Gels. I also had rehydration sachets to help my body balance itself, as I had no idea if I would cope in the desert (I love snow, haha!), let alone running in it for 24 hours!
My biggest WTM Tip
My advice for anyone taking on WTM for the first time is join the World’s Toughest Mudder online community as soon as you’ve signed up. These people are basically the most knowledgeable racers out there and have done numerous Tough Mudder, WTM, Toughest, Tougher and other epic OCR events. They know what kit you need for every type of weather and environment. They’ll help you meet others to keep accommodation/travel costs down. They are such a friendly bunch!
Corrine will be back in the desert for more WTM fun in November 2017 and we’ll be following her journey!
Find out more about World’s Toughest Mudder by visiting www.toughmudder.com/wtm2017