10 tips before Tough Mudder
Today is Wednesday, and a lot of you are racing in Tough Mudder Toronto this weekend. In fact, it seems that everyone and their mother (in some cases, literally) are registered for that event. I am so excited!
My team and I are racing at 8.30am on Saturday, and I will be joining another team of my friends at 2.15pm for a second loop. I’ll also be volunteering on course on Sunday.
I received many last minute questions regarding the race day logistics, so here’s a little run down for those of you who were not able to make one of my obstacle racing workshops though CrossFit.
Disclaimer: While this is my third season obstacle racing, I have not yet done a Tough Mudder. Hence, any advice is based on 1) practical experience from all the other obstacle races I have done, and 2) theoretical knowledge from all the research/homework in Tough Mudder specifically.
1. Do not try anything new the week before the race.
This rule trumps all the other rules. This is not the time to experiment. With anything. Shoes, protein shake, energy gels, new yoga instructor, special diet. When in doubt, see rule #1. Do. Not. Try. Anything. New.
2. Get lots of sleep between now and the weekend.
I cannot stress this enough. This is the biggest thing you can do between now and the race to ensure an optimal experience (or to minimize misery). Nothing will be able to replace being well-rested on race day. Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night. It is actually more important to bank 2-3 nights of good sleep earlier in the week, than to sleep 8 hours the night before. In fact, you will probably be too jittery to sleep well the night before anyway.
3. No running or hard workouts.
Your endurance training is done. Your strength training is done. You are done. There is nothing you can gain in the next 3-4 days that you do not already have. Trying to squeeze in a couple of long runs before the race just because you are worried about the distance will only result in you being exhausted at the start line.
3. Skip the extra large pasta dinner the night before the race.
There is no particular need to carb load before a race such as this. Most individuals have plenty of carbohydrates in their diet. For most, carb loading just equals eating larger than usual amounts of pasta the night before the race. Result? Risking a full / bloated feeling on the morning of. See rule #1. This obviously does not apply if you are an experienced distance runner or an endurance athlete. In which case, you could have written these tips yourself. 🙂
4. Eat breakfast (if you are up early enough).
I would only suggest eating breakfast if you are up at least four hours before start time. For example, if you are racing at 10am, and you get up at 6am, you can eat a nice filling breakfast, and still have time to digest. This is not the time for a huge salad or a fruit smoothie. Lean protein and vegetables (e.g. scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach) work well. Slow-digesting carbohydrates with some fat (e.g. whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and banana) is another option. But… remember rule #1.
If you are up later, skip breakfast altogether. Have a coffee an hour or two before race starts, and an energy gel 15 minutes before. You’ll be fine.
5. Do not wear cotton.
Cotton is usually fine for anything under an hour. In this case, plan to be wet, muddy and cold for 3-4 hours. Hence, synthetic moisture wicking materials will be ideal. This applies to shirts, shorts, socks and underwear. Everything.
6. Tight is right.
You heard me. Do not let me see you on course wearing a baggy t-shirt and soccer shorts. I will smack you.
Guys – tight t-shirt or tank, or long sleeve shirt. If you are not secure enough to pull that off, skip the shirt altogether. It will probably snag on the barb wire anyway. Running tights or biking-style shorts work well. Again, if that causes you anxiety, wear something looser on top.
Girls – tight is usually an easier sell. Tank or sports bra. Yoga tights or shorts. There is something to be said for wearing something below the knee as it protects the skin a bit during mud crawls.
7. Show up early and bring cash.
There will be crowds of people all trying to park at the same time. They will be nervous, sleep-deprived and angry. Not pretty. Save yourself the headache. Cash is king on race site. Bring some.
8. Carry water and fuel.
This will definitely be up to your discretion. Tough Mudder, as compared to a lot of other obstacle races, is supposed to be quite well supported with aid stations. I know that I need my water when I need it, and not when there is an aid station. Hence, I am carrying a slim Camelbak. I will also be carrying energy gels – one 15 minutes before the start, and then roughly one gel every 45 minutes. If you have never run for longer than an hour, you may want to consider bringing something of the sort. Otherwise, your legs may give you a nasty surprise couple of hours into the race.
9. Wear sunscreen.
It’s pretty obvious, but it tends to be forgotten among so many other things. You will be out in the sun for 3-5 hours. Wear sunscreen. Skin cancer sucks. Just ask my dad. Don’t forget the lips – I burned my lips off completely twice in the beginning of this season. The skin then peels for days. Sexy.
10. Bring food. And garbage bags.
I find it helpful to have some good eats packed for after the race. There will be some SAD food available at the race site. SAD = Standard American Diet. Fries. Burgers. Coke. Mmmmmmmm… I will be drinking the beer though.
Garbage bags for dirty gear and shoes! And a clean set of everything.
11. [bonus] Enjoy the experience!
This has a potential to be one of the most miserable experiences of your life. Follow the tips above and this will not be as likely. Instead, it will be challenging, it will be tough, it will be fun. You will push yourself, do things you have never done before, and finish with a smile on your face.
I’m proud of you for signing up. See you on course.