Atlanta Toughest Mudder was a great training run but I knew I could do better so I went back to the drawing board.
In Atlanta I was coming off an injury and hadn’t been training that much. Roger that, easy fix, I started running again just a few days after Atlanta and put in 50 miles of running in about 6 days. This isn’t a lot and it’s nowhere near what I used to do, but it’s what my body would allow and that’s what guides us in training.
In Atlanta I also suffered from stomach problems, as did a lot of people. As Jason Rulo pointed out in a wonderful article you can read HERE, you can’t carb load 6 hour prior to a race! Which, surprisingly, is what most of us did.
What I did to fix that is I ate my last meal at 2200 Friday night about 26 hours prior to the event. I had chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. The next afternoon when I woke up treated my diet like I was racing. I ate small meals and frequently, about every 2 hours. When I say small meal I mean like half a bagel…that small. I pretty much ate a little bit every 2 hours. A banana here and Clif bar there. I had a nice solid pre race pooh and my stomach felt great the rest of the night. I did have to stop once around 0600 but it was solid and controllable.
Alright enough about my pooh.
What did Tough Mudder do this time to mess with us? They took out the 2 loop course format and made it a true mini WTM experience running the same 5-mile loop the entire time. This meant a short grace period (about 1.5 hours for full obstacles open) and no obstacle free laps (for the fast guys) after that. Tough Mudder also upped the number of obstacles per lap from 13 to 16.
The weather was a “wet-cold” (I think down to 49) and you got wet 6 times per lap. This made for a muddy/slippery course and high obstacle failure. I failed Funky Monkey every single lap. In comparison, I completed Funky Monkey 19 times out of 21 at WTM. When bars are wet and muddy you need superman squeeze strength to stay on.
The cold also meant that people were doing gear changes. I saw plenty of wetsuits at the starting line but I also saw plenty of shirtless guys (Tyler Nash) toughing it out. I opted for a wool T-shirt. I was miserably cold, but I survived.
I used the same race mix as always except I made it thicker using less water. I had about 1,000 calories in ¾ the water and this lasted me the first 4 hours. I wanted to cut down on weight and the annoying squeeze you get with a full bladder. I only drank from my vest at the water stations so I could wash down the thick mix. There were 3 water stations per lap, perfect.
With Ryan Atkins, Chad Trammel, and Ryan Woods absent from the race there was pressure on me to win. I didn’t listen, I just focused on my own race and goals. I wanted to do better than my best in Atlanta: 40 Miles in 7:45
When the race started I heeded Atkins advice and ran at an uncomfortable but manageable pace. I could talk, but I wasn’t laughing. The pace was easy to maintain because I was cold and needed to push hard to stay warm. The temp was 52 when we started and we weren’t dry for long.
The pack sorted itself out pretty quickly the first lap with Jordan Mcdougal, Kris Mendoza, Austin Azar, and Mark Jones passing me early on. I settled in next to Joshua Fiore like good ole times in Vermont and the race was on.
The first lap we only had to go through 2 obstalces (pitfall and quagmire), basically 2 big muddy pits filled with knee to waist deep water. All the other obstacles were closed and would be opened slowly over the next 1.5 hours. The terrain was grassy with rolling hills. What made it difficult was that Tough Mudder often had us traversing hills rather than going up or down them. This is tough on your ankles and makes difficult footwork. I only pulled ahead of Joshua Fiore after he rolled his ankle early in the race. Had that not happened he would have been one of the top contenders.
I finished lap 1 in 40 minutes and immediately moved on to lap 2, as did Mendoza and Azar who were only a minute of two ahead.
During lap 2 they opened all obstacles besides King of Swingers, Augustus Gloop (cause of temps), Funky Monkey, and Stage 5 clinger. My only goal the second lap was to get past mud mile and I did. Mud mile left a sour taste in my mouth after Atlanta’s Toughest and I wanted to do that obstacle as little as possible. The extra deep trenches you had to climb into and ot of made the obstacle time consuming and exhausting.
I finished my first 2 laps in 1:25 and at 1:30 all the obstacles opened; it was game time.
The 3rd lap was the first “real lap” of the race. During this lap I would be running the full course, mapping it out in my head, setting my lanes on the obstacles, and pace for the rest of the race. I am one of those weird creatures who finds a way to do something then does it that way every single time from then on. So during lap 3 I would be finding the best way to maneuver through everything. Which hills to run and which hills to walk. Which lane on which obstacle I would use. I blame this on being brought up in Motocross where the best riders do the same thing. Every course has its fastest lane and in Motocross it’s usually a fight to be the guy in that lane.
Anyway, I was cruising through the course and feeling comfortable on every obstacle but I knew that Funky Monkey would be difficult since it was right after arctic enema. Being cold already while running, the dunk under a wall in ice water made things much worse, and when I get cold my hands freeze up. When I say freeze up I mean they get bad. I’ve been running outside back home on cold days and when I get home my hands are so cold I can’t put the key into the door knob to unlock the door. I lose any gripping function and an obstacle like funky monkey becomes nearly impossible.
Getting out of the water I ran down the hill to funky monkey as fast as I could while blowing on my cupped hands to warm them up. I got to the obstacle and saw everyone falling off. I knew the bars were wet and this usually means a failed obstacle for me. I jumped on the thin monkey bars and was able to work my way all the way across them because they were thin enough to wrap my entire hands around, but once I grabbed onto the fat wheels and started swinging I couldn’t keep my hands cupped around them. I slid off first the vertical wheel every single lap of the race. I pride myself in being obstacle proficient in races but during Toughest Philly, I failed Funky Monkey every lap.
The penalty was a time consuming run up and down a hill but I dug a lane into that hill and made it a strength instead of weakness.
As the race went on and I got more comfortable with the course I went into cruise mode and the rest of the night is a blur. I was cold but moving fast. My hands were freezing and I remember blowing hot air on them after every water obstacle to keep them from freezing up. I was to stubborn to stop and put on a warming layer because I didn’t want to lose the time. I cruised through the pits the first 4 laps and when I started my 5th lap without pitting I realized I had no timing chip. I had just caught up to Austin Azar after passing Mendoza and Jones, I really didn’t want to lose credit for this lap. I ran with Azar for a bit and told him what happened in case he pulled away he could give them a heads up, but I ended up pulling away from him.
As I neared the finish for my 5th lap I heard the announcer calling Jones in 3rd and Austin in 2nd. Crap, right then I knew I was fucked. I’d fallen off the charts and moved into 2nd, I could only hope that someone back in the pits was on top of it.
Luckily, as I moved in Gina was waiting for me with Nolan holding a brand new chip. Gina had caught on that my ticker had stopped early on and done everything necessary to keep me going. I grabbed my new chip and ran to the desk to get it registered, after that I had to refill my bladder and I would be out for the rest of the race.
As Gina was refilling my bladder Austin came into the pits and I had flashbacks to WTM. We had 3.5 hours left in the race and it would be a fight between me and Austin again but this time for second.
Well, things didn’t work out that way, Austin wasn’t feeling it that night and as I moved on to secure second place Austin told me that some ultra runner was in first place and I needed to chase him down. I thought that was a good idea, 1st is better than 2nd, but I hadn’t seen this guy all night and being a marathon into an obstacle race chasing someone down didn’t sound fun. I just kept running my lane and pace, and figured i’d see what happened.
As the sun slowly rose and the race went on I kept chugging along. As I passed racers from the community who were walking at this point they were cheering me on saying “go get him Trevor”, “He’s not that far ahead”. I was loving the motivation and every time I heard it I put a pep in my step for a few seconds but I was slowing down. I wanted the win but 2nd place was fine with me. I was warming up but it made the pain feel worse. My hands weren’t freezing anymore but my legs were throbbing and I felt like I was dragging them.
When I finished my 7th lap I heard Jordan’s name go over the speaker and he was just starting his 8th lap. Shit, I can do this! I didn’t look at anyone as I crossed the finish, I just turned my head to the start and headed straight out. Suddenly my legs felt a little lighter and I went into hunt mode. I could see Jordan in the distance but he was pulling away in the long running section before the first obstacle the Mud Mile. When I got there he was only halfway through but as he was pulling out I was only 2 trenches behind, I was gaining.
Out of the mud pits there was a hill climb and Jordan was running the hill. Walking it was hard for me but I made an effort to run 10 seconds, walk a few steps, run another 10 seconds. I was doing everything I could to quicken my pace. I slowly lost sight of Jordan through the next mile until we reached the halfway point of the lap were I caught up to him on Everest 2.0.
Everest this year involves throwing a grappling hook to the top of the quarter pipe and climbing the rope to get to the top. The hardest part is pulling yourself over the top of the quarter pipe, the very last section. Jordan was stuck there when I rounded the corner. I started to climb the rope next to him and I got stuck in the same spot. There we were the 2 leaders of the race hanging side by side from a rope on the last lap of the race. This flashed through my head and I wasn’t going to slide backwards, the rope was muddy and slick but I wouldn’t fail. I squeezed the rope and pulled as hard as I could with the one hand that was over the hump. I prayed that it would not slide back like it had done before. The extra tough squeeze paid off and I pulled myself over with one arm then grabbed the wood on the far side with my other and I was done. I had completed the obstacle and taken the lead, I looked over and Jordan was STILL hanging from the top. He had to have been there for several minutes. His determination and no quit attitude inspired me. I couldn’t leave him there so I walked over and pulled him up the last inch he needed to complete the obstacle, then turned around and ran off as fast as I could because I knew he would be coming.
When I approached King of Swingers Jordan was right behind me. CBS was following and filming and they pulled ahead in their cart to watch the obstacle. If one of us failed the race over. I climbed up as fast I could and dried my hands on the wood before jumping out and swinging across to the net. Just to ensure I passed I snagged the net by punching through with my arm and securing myself at my elbow (like monkeys in a barrel). This worked beautifully and I pulled my legs to the cable and slid down with plenty of reassurance that the race was mine. I ran off without looking back. Jordan failed it. I failed Funky Monkey again but so did Jordan. I was slowly pulling away and when I finished my 8th lap at 0733 I had a dilemma to face. I could sit here and wait to see if Jordan started another lap, he would have to finish his 9th though to beat me since I finished lap 8 faster. Or I could start another lap and secure this thing for good.
Kris Mendoza didn’t give me time to think. As soon as I crossed the finish line he yelled “Trevor you have to start another lap”. I took a drink of water and waddled off to start lap 9.
My goal of this race was 9 laps. I had 57 minutes to run my final lap, but after pushing so hard to finish lap 8 and take over the lead I didn’t have the strength or determination to push hard again for 9 laps. So I walked and waited for the horn to sound off at 0830.
Luckily, Kris Mendoza met me on course 2 miles in to tell me that I could stop walking and get off course without getting disqualified. I had just picked up a sandbag and was going to carry it down and back up a hill, but Kris’s proposition sounded pretty good so I dropped it and walked back towards the event area.
I am really happy to have won this race and secure my spot for the money race at WTM this year (in order to win the $50k prize for 110 miles this year you need to have finished top 5 at a Toughest Mudder). This is a race I will always remember. I froze my ass off but had a great time and got to see the beautiful country outside the city of Philadelphia.
Thank you Gina for pitting for me
On to Whistler!