With the World’s Toughest Mudder 2023 now behind us, it’s time to take a look back at how it went.
What did I learn from training for a 24-hour race?
What did I learn from running a 24-hour race?
Did I achieve the goal?
Will I do it again?
What Is ‘My Muddy Life’ All About?
This life isn’t getting any easier. So I wanted to explore the boundaries of difficult for myself to see just how far we can go in this life.
I live on a farm in rural Texas with my wife, two daughters, and my wife’s grandmother. Plenty of chores, responsibilities, and chaos every single day. In case we didn’t have enough on our plates, my wife and I are both entrepreneurs.
To put it simply – our life is muddy.
So why not push the boundaries of an already muddy life, and sign up for the World’s Toughest Mudder 2023?
When Life is Already Muddy, How Does One Find Time to Train?
The thing about a 24-hour race, everything becomes training.
Waking up earlier than usual for something? That’s training.
Staying up later than usual for something? That’s training.
Training is obviously training, but then having to be physically and mentally on your toes after training, that’s also training.
For example, when I went out for a 5-mile training run at lunch time, all of life’s responsibilities are still waiting for me there when I get back. No letting my guard down because I’m tired or sore.
Most of the time training runs had to take place in the middle of the night, which also built towards preparing for the real conditions of the race – darkness in the middle of the night. I really needed to acclimate my body to doing physical work at all hours of the day and night.
Being a father, husband, entrepreneur, that means most of the time my calendar is full until 11pm or later. To a lot of people that probably sounds hard, and it was, but I had to always remind myself that that was the point. This race was always going to be hard, not just physically, but mentally too.
Constantly trying to talk myself into running in the middle of the night after a long day, ended up being quite applicable on race day/night…
Race Day for the World’s Toughest Mudder 2023
After 8+ months, 500+ miles, thousands of pushups, 13,000+ feet of elevation gain, and over 100 hours of training, race day is finally here.
We’ve got a race plan. We’ve studied the course map. Now it’s time to throw all of that away and just run the race in front of us. 5-mile laps for 24 hours, one obstacle at a time. Some obstacles will be predictable, and some will catch us completely off-guard. Not all obstacles are designed into the race.
The first part of the race is considered the easier part. The first lap won’t have any obstacles open, and it’s light outside, which makes some things less difficult.
A couple obstacles open per hour until all are open by 10pm.
The Real Race Starts at Midnight
Things got real for me on lap-3 around mile-12.5 when both legs started cramping up. I hadn’t cramped up at this distance since I started training in April. How could this happen now??? At this point I’m seeing the sun start to fall, and I know my next lap will end in the dark.
I had to sit down right in the middle of the course and give my legs the time they needed to get me going again. In true Mudder fashion, every single person that passed me asked if I was ok or needed help.
Consider this my first unexpected obstacle. Much earlier than I thought, but after all, that’s what the World’s Toughest Mudder is all about. No one’s race goes the way they think it will. What matters is how you run the race in front of you.
I had to get my legs right so I could get myself to the real race, the dark hours.
After a few minutes of stretching and just allowing my legs to calm down, I was able to get going again. Pickle juice, bananas, Deep Comforts pain cream, and a rollout to the rescue once I got back to the pit. I was a new man on lap-4. Cramps are nowhere to be found.
Things got real again right on schedule, around midnight at the end of our 5th lap. It was dark. It was cold. And we were tired.
The reason they say the real race begins at midnight is because that’s when you have maximum resistance. When it’s dark, you’re cold, and the road ahead is difficult, your mind will do a lot of things to get you to stop and seek rest.
Whether you are trying to podium, or you’re there to prove something real to yourself about yourself, the hours after midnight are where that’s done. The podium part speaks for itself, but you aren’t proving anything to yourself by folding when things get tough. After all you signed up for the World’s TOUGHEST Mudder. Not the world’s kinda-challenging mudder.
It doesn’t matter how far or fast you go, if you are on that course between sunset and sunrise, you are winning in some capacity. You are overcoming a lot of very difficult circumstances just to be in that place of struggle. At that point it isn’t hard to find gratitude for your ability to struggle, and overcome struggle.
You Don’t Rise to the Occasion, You Fall to Your Training
Two things can be true. You can certainly rise to an occasion in a lot of ways, but when adversity hits and your back is against the wall, that’s when you will fall back on your training. That’s when my training carried me to a point I did not believe possible.
After lap-6, it’s around 2am, and we couldn’t be more ready to quit. It took a lot of soul searching to get out for lap-7. Part of that was something I didn’t even realize I had built into myself through my training.
See, the majority of my training runs happened after 11pm, purely out of necessity. What I always found to be true for my training runs is if I can just get myself outside to stretch and warmup, I won’t have a problem getting a run started.
Without even thinking about it, what got me turned around to get back out for lap-7 was a dynamic warmup I would do before training runs. It was like my body took the reins from my brain and said “we know what to do here”. After about 5 minutes of dynamic warmup, not only was my body warmer and ready to go, but my head was too.
Something relatively simple that I always do in training as a good fundamental practice, turns out to be a lifeline to carry me through one of the hardest moments of the World’s Toughest Mudder 2023.
The Teeth of the Beast
As we trucked through lap-7, we kept acknowledging that we were in the teeth of the beast. It wasn’t going to get worse than where we were.
- We had made peace with the obstacles
- It wasn’t going to get any colder
- We would see the sunrise on lap-8
That last one ended up being a bigger factor than I ever could’ve imagined. I heard other WTM athletes talk about the sunrise energy boost, but it’s really hard to understand without experiencing it. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
We defeated lap-7, struggled in the pit for another hour or so, and just like we talked about, the sun rose on lap-8.
Whatever It Takes
Unfortunately, Dalton didn’t make it through the night unscathed. His knee and hip were giving him all he could handle. By the middle of lap-8 he wasn’t sure he could finish that lap, much less make a run at 10 laps.
He knew I still had enough gas in the tank to get 50 miles. I didn’t want to admit it at first because we had gotten so close to our goal together, but the only way I was going to make it was to go ahead without him.
We agreed to part ways, and he agreed to finish lap-8, whatever it takes.
Empty the Tank
I had no idea what time it was when we parted ways in the middle of lap-8. All I knew was I needed to finish lap-8 before 9am to have enough time to get laps 9 & 10.
Lap-8 completed around 8:40am. I had a real chance.
After thinking all night that I just needed to finish a lap after 7am so I could be a finisher, and 50 miles was something I was happily willing to concede as long as I could just finish the race, a real opportunity to get 50 miles was in my hand.
The sun had given me the equivalent of a coffee IV in my arm.
The power of goal setting had never been more clear to me than before I started Lap-9 in pursuit of 50 miles. I was ready to throw in the towel all night, and now I had a choice in front of me to stop and be considered a finisher, or go get that 50 miles. There was no hesitation. 50 miles was going to be mine.
Taking off on lap-9 the only thing in my head was “empty the tank”.
There was nothing else to save for. No next race. No training. This was it.
There was no reason to walk instead of run.
There was no reason to negotiate skipping an obstacle for a penalty.
For the first time I can ever remember, being tired didn’t matter. What a freeing feeling. A life hack unlocked.
I finished lap-9 around 10:30am. It took less than 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete lap-9, so I knew I had lap-10 in the bag with 2 hours to finish it.
Lap-10 was an emotional lap. In my mind I was already done. The reality of accomplishing such a large goal was already overwhelming me. By the time I crossed the finish line it was no longer surreal. It felt like I had graduated into a new community. The work was done, and no one could take it away from me.
No one can question whether I belong running in the World’s Toughest Mudder anymore. Not that anyone outside of myself ever did. That doubt monster inside of me that’s responsible for fear and doubt is a little bit smaller, and a little quieter.
Be The Monster Your Monster Is Afraid
We all have a little monster inside of us responsible for speaking fear and doubt into our minds. It’s the voice that tells you to quit when it’s cold and dark. It’s the voice that makes you think you don’t belong. It whispers “You can’t do this. Who do you think you are?”.
We all have the power to become the monster that monster is afraid of.
You have to go deeper and darker than it wants to go, and you set up camp there. Get comfortable, and stay as long as it takes for your monster to quit. When the sun comes up, you will still be there and that monster will be long gone.
Is Your Life Muddy Too?
We want to hear about it.
Many of you have fascinating stories that others can gain inspiration and hope from. We hope you’ll reach out to share your “My Muddy Life” story. You never know whose life your story might touch and change.
As for us, this muddy life doesn’t stop. Stay tuned to see what we get into in 2024.
FEEL BETTER TODAY, Y’all!
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