This past weekend marked the first race of the season for me. I flew down to LA to compete in the 1st ever "Toughest Mudder" presented by Tough Mudder. This was an 8 hour obstacle course that started at midnight and ended at 8:00 AM that morning. Little did I know the biggest obstacle wasn't even on the course map: Hills. Lots of hills. A group of us flew in to LA on Thursday, and rented a cabin up hear Big Bear, where we rented a cabin to hang out and load up on food prior to the race. It was great being able to see Adriane Avalord, Miguel Medina, Austin Azar and Mark Jones. There is something special about hanging out with a group of people who can nerd out on nutrition talk and race strategies.
We spent the first day hanging out around Santa Monica, enjoying the beach and sunshine. After a trip to Whole Foods we headed up to the cabin to settle in for the next few days. Friday morning, we all went on an easy shakeout run prior to the race. Being someone who always runs by themselves, I enjoyed laughing and talking, even if it was just a couple miles. Staying at rest is hard for me, so the two days leading up to the event was difficult trying to conserve energy and rest up. But it gave me the time to do things I don't normally have time for in my schedule. Like play intense card games with friends and complete puppy puzzles while drinking tea.
Saturday morning was filled with nerves. I've never started a race so late, so all day felt like a huge build up until the race stared. It consisted of eating pancakes and napping until it was time to head down the hill for dinner with friends. Knowing my nutrition mistakes from my last event, I brought my own food to the restaurant not wanting to make my stomach cranky.
Arriving to the venue and seeing familiar faces made me even more excited to race. My goal for this race was to run 25 miles in order to qualify for "contender" status at a later race in the year: World’s Toughest Mudder. The race was split into two loops. Each loop is 5 miles long with multiple obstacles. From 12:00 AM - 4:00 AM we ran loop 1, and 4:00 AM - 8:00 AM we ran loop 2. This mentally helped break out the night as well.
I felt good going into the race. I was rested and ready to burn off all the pancakes and peanut butter I ate the last two days. My first lap felt great, and decided to not stop at my drop point to get any additional nutrition. Going into lap two made me realize I needed to incorporate some more hill work into my training. Regardless, I felt great in lap two but was very hot. The question of the night was to wear a wetsuit or not? I opted with wearing a 2mm wetsuit with the legs cut off. By lap 2 the upper part of the suit was tied around my waist. This is where it remained for the rest of the race.
Clearly still early in the race, as I still had my headlamp and a smile
My goal was to get 4 laps on the first loop, because I knew the elevation gain on the second lap was going to be far worse. So as long as I got one lap on the second loop I would hit my goal! By lap 3, I spent no more than 30 seconds in the pit, where I slammed down a Glukos Gel and Honey Stinger wafer, and re-filled my water bottle an endurance drink. Although eating sugary food was tempting, I knew my stomach wouldn’t tolerate it.
I finished my 4th lap around 3:50 AM. My fourth lap because extra fun because I lost my headlamp on an obstacle, as it sunk to the bottom of the muddy water. Knowing I didn’t have any other ones to spare, since that was my 2nd headlamp of the night, I had to get my eyes accustomed to running in the dark. With this course being very uneven terrain, this slowed me down a bit to ensure I didn’t roll my ankle. It wasn't until that moment I appreciated the abundance of carrots in my diet.
The second loop opened at 3:45 AM so this was perfect timing to get one last lap in. But then it hit me: I only planned on doing one more lap, but had just over 4 hours left in my race. I was only halfway done. The self-doubt started to creep up on me. Did I start out too fast? Is this pace even sustainable? Not even knowing or seeming to care what place I was in, I grabbed some more Honey Stinger waffles and headed out on my 5th lap.
When you realize you have to go out for another lap
This lap was brutal. Although I do not know the elevation gain for each lap, both totaled 4,400 feet. It sure felt like all 4,000 was on that second loop. I also knew there were way more water obstacles on this lap, but it was needed to cool your body off after basically scrambling up the hills. I ended up finishing the second lap in just under 1:30. My clock read 5:18 AM. I’ve never felt more confused as to what to do in a race. I already hit my goal. Do I stop and celebrate or go out for another lap? Knowing I still had just over 3 hours left until the finish I knew I needed to head out for another lap.
This was probably my fastest and most fun I had on any lap. I kept telling myself how this was the last lap, and was filled with adrenaline and Glukos gels. The sun even came out that lap, so my eyes were not working so hard. My grip was starting to become tired on the obstacles, but my spirit was high and nothing could stop me.
Well I basically sprinted into the finish line with a smile on my face, until I looked at my watch. 7:12 AM. My heart sank. It wasn’t 8:00 AM yet, and you have until 8:30 AM to complete a lap. I knew if I left immediately I could make it back for another lap. I glanced over at the leader boards and to my surprise I was in the top 5. Was this a mistake? Apparently not. My friend Andrew came over to be just as I was thinking about quitting. He reminded me that you wont always have a good race, and that you need to use this opportunity and keep pushing. Yancy also told me I had to go back out. With those words of encouragement, I went out on the hardest lap of my race.
Now i'm really finished
This was hard for me. I told my body it was done. I mentally told myself I was going to be done after the previous lap. But here I was, back on the course. I didn’t even have time to stop in my pit area to re-fuel. I was cold, tired and everything in me told me to stop. I saw Austin on the course and he gave me some GU which helped me get over a lot of the hills. I had a mental breakdown that lap. I did something I wasn’t prepared for. I realized that lap I set my goal to low, and anything past that, I got scared because I wasn’t mentally prepared to go that far. I somehow made my way down and the final results posted online showed a 4th place finish for myself.
Everyone who was in our house ended up with a top 10 finish. I couldn't be more proud of them, as this was not an easy course. I am still surprised at myself in how I did compared to the amazing field of women that were on that course. This race showed me that if you set your goals higher, the probability of you attaining them become very real, rather than setting low goals just to attain them, and not having a game plan for when you meet these goals. I look forward to doing many more Toughest Mudders in the future, with higher and higher goals each time! It felt great to be racing again, but for now it’s back to my triathlon training.