Are You Ready?
- Written by Dave Gluhareff
Are You Ready?
By Leslie St. Louis
(Team Strength Runner Athlete)
“Are you ready?”
Got that question a few times leading up to my first-ever World’s Toughest Mudder* and was never quite how to respond.
I had long responses:
“Well, yes I think so…but I’ve never raced 24 hours before and I have never tried to run with a wetsuit and I don’t know if it will be cold…. But I have been running a lot, but not sure if I have been working on strength enough. Think I know what I will eat, but not sure if I will carry a pack and planning not to sleep, but unsure how that will pan out…and speaking of which, I have never really run at night….”
I had short:
In the end, I knew I would never quite be a peace with how ready I was for my first time at the World’s Toughest Mudder, but relied on two of favorite quotes:
“If we wait until we are ready, we will be waiting for the rest of our lives.”
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
Leading up to the event, I DID know that unless I was physically maimed, I would keep moving.
From the time I was twelve until college graduation I spent nearly every summer backpacking, camping, climbing, eventually becoming an outdoor guide, and essentially mentally prepping for long events like these. In fact, I was really looking forward to being outside in terrain that reminded me so much of my home state of Colorado. And honestly, as a busy mom of two, I was kind of looking forward to a whole day to myself!
In the end, it was a truly unforgettable 24+ hour race with more than 20,000 feet of elevation change and 65 miles with 260 obstacles.
Was I ready?
Turns out all my short answers were right.
Yes: I completed 65 miles and came in 4th place for women, 33rd overall!
No: I did way more penalties than I would have liked and asked for boosts more than I wanted.
“Ready”: I was prepared for the cold but never expected all the wind or fathomed that I would find myself with my husband (pit crew!) huddled in a port a potty in the wee hours of the night eating cup o noodles and receiving a pep talk.
Also, I was unprepared for how emotional this event would be.
There were frustrations:
Small frustrations, like seriously being tired of shot blocks and pop tarts, but big ones too. I was intermittently sobbing on the course at night because it was so cold but I didn't want to stop or quit! Later I was growling (yes, growling) the last 10 miles because again I wanted to be done but didn't want all those nighttime running miles to have been wasted. My Pit Crew and fellow racers Tom, Dayna, Corinne and Josue were giving me updates. At night, I had some 5- mile laps that nearly took three hours. The last lap took me about an hour and thirty minutes and it came down to eight -- eight! --- minutes between me and the fifth place woman in our overall time.
There were crazy, “what the…?” moments: besides forcing my husband Tom to squeeze into a port o potty with me in the middle of the night (just to get away from the wind) where he fed me noodles and squeezed me into two wetsuits, I also found myself diving out of metal tubes into a pool of water, swimming with lit tiki torches, jumping off of 30-foot cliffs and scaling dozens of walls over and over and over….
There were moments of strength:
I definitely (well, mostly) conquered my recent fear of heights and found energy I didn't know I had to just keep going. I also never wanted to run in a wetsuit, but ended up running more than 14 hours wearing TWO wetsuits at once, including a wetsuit hood and gloves. On the upside, I felt no rocks and floated like a giant balloon through the water!
There were moments of weakness:
My legs and arms seemed to just stop working at various points throughout the day, and even though it is a race the friendly WTM community helps each other. So, so SO many times, various fellow racers helped pull and shove my two layered wetsuit booty over and up things. I vow to come back stronger next year!
There was connectedness:
During such a long event, the connections you make with fellow racers and the volunteers are completely unique, whether it's repeated laps or just a few seconds.
There was joy:
In August 2013 when I broke my leg only a few months of breaking my foot ( also tearing my labrum), the doctors and PTs told me to work up to "long" runs and to not expect big mileage. So running the first few hours of the race yesterday, I was holding back tears of happiness! It was the best feeling ever to do what I love and see how far my body would take me if I didn't set boundries on it. I am positive it is a feeling I will chase more and more.
Finally, there were moments of thankfulness:
It was extra special that my husband Tom, who is usually home watching our daughters so I can run these events, could be there for this and both him and my friend Dayna. were the best pit crew ever. They stayed up the entire 25 hours, enduring the cold and horrible wind and walking the course dozens of times so they could show up at obstacles to cheer me on, then running back to get food and supplies ready.
The World’s Toughest Mudder Community is completely unique. My husband and I were not only wowed by the organization but friendliness of everyone, including the volunteers, who held up “Free Hugs” signs and braved through all hours of the storm with a smile, the Pit Crews and spectators, including a bagpipe playing dad!, the Tough Mudder Employees, who mailed me a forgotten finisher shirt after the race, and especially the Fellow Racers.
Even though you often feel alone during the WTM, you are never alone. I had so many great conversations and interactions during the race. Not to mention that every athlete is treated the same. There is no ego and in fact, a wacky, fun humor pervades.
The event is about testing yourself physically, but really, it’s even more about the mental and emotional toll. You’ll learn something about yourself and make connections amid challenging, inspiring and sometimes completely absurd situations.
I would recommend this race or a long, ultra obstacle race to anyone willing to take a chance and try it.
There’s no way to be ready, which is both a lesson and the entire point.
* What was the World’s Toughest Mudder 2014?
The fourth annual 24-hour obstacle race took place for the first time in Las Vegas on November 15th. With a history of being notoriously cold (it took place in New Jersey -- in NOVEMBER -- the last few years), the event tracks how many five mile laps with 20+ obstacles competitors can complete. While the Tough Mudder mantra of teamwork still pervades, this is the company’s one competitive race of the year, so many participants came in hopes of doing personal bests and there are penalties for failing obstacles.