MUD CHRONICLES: World’s Toughest Mudder 2016 and the importance of big, scary events

Of all the races I have ever done, one holds a special place for me: World’s Toughest Mudder.

I’ve run the event twice – back in 2012 and 2013. And earlier this year I signed up to run it again this November. My reasons for doing it this year are mixed: to bury old ghosts, to learn about myself, and to keep raging against the dying of the light.

There are races that will test your speed or conditioning. There are races that will test your strength and obstacle abilities. But few events will force you to look inside yourself the way World’s Toughest Mudder does. Spending 24 hours enduring cold, wet conditions, electric shocks, psychological torments and grueling physical challenges has a way of doing that. Many people might think they could do it. Some might even be able to go strong for 8 or 9 hours. But when you’re approaching 12 hours in with another 12 to go, and you’re already physically and mentally worn down, and you have a cold, lonely night ahead of you, that’s when you learn things about yourself. Things you don’t always like. And that is the beauty of a long endurance event like World’s Toughest Mudder.

While I’ve had to sit out the last two WTMs, I’ve probably thought about it every day since November 2013. That year, I achieved my 50-mile goal, but was left haunted by what might have been. I had underestimated what I was capable of, had a faulty game plan, and came away with an empty feeling and a desire for redemption. So every day since then, my mind has drifted to training ideas, nutrition, gear, game plans, all aimed at getting the most out of my performance at the next WTM.

It has become an obsession. I admit that. But a good one. An important one.

The price for admission isn’t cheap (around $400 or more). But a big event like WTM is like medicine. It is a prescription for healthy living, one that is increasingly important the older I get. I don’t pay for blood pressure medication or cholesterol medication or any weight loss programs. I pay for this, and the fear forces me to live healthy.

That’s the importance of big, scary events like this. You can do a regular Tough Mudder, or a Spartan Beast or Battlefrog. If you’re not prepared, you will suffer, but you will get through it.

If you’re not prepared for WTM, a deep, dark place awaits you. One you have no desire to visit. I have visited it, and the fear of returning fuels me. The high price tag means you don’t want to waste your performance. You need to get the most out of it, or you have wasted a lot of money. If you are physically unprepared, you will suffer physically and then, even worse, mentally in a way shorter races can’t make you.

Signing up for WTM is like hanging an anvil over your head, one that will crush you physically, mentally, and perhaps even financially, if you don’t prepare for it. That’s why I obsess all the time about it. And that’s why I love it.

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