Tough Mudder recap

Hello!

As promised, FINALLY here is the story of How I Earned My Orange Headband and officially became a Tough Mudder.

I “swam” through waist-deep mud, crawled through dark tunnels, and was electrocuted in the head. With a smile on my face!

So let’s back up. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I have been training for TM. Well, Sunday the 24th of August was the big day! It was the second day of “Tough Mudder Great Northeast” (TM events are huge and usually take place over the course of an entire weekend) and my friend Tom and I drove up with my family for the race challenge.

Still clean pre-race!

Still clean pre-race!

Full of nervous excitement at the start line!

Full of nervous excitement at the start line!

The New England Mudder this year was held in Westbrook, ME. Oddly enough, part of it took place on a doctored-up golf course (and by doctored-up I meant post-apocalyptic). Tom said it was significantly less hilly as a result (most other TM’s are held on ski slopes and the like), but the footing was actually much worse. He was right there – the hills were not too extreme (though my hill workouts DEFINITELY paid off in this endurance event!) but a good part of the course was actually a series of hiking trails (used for snowmobiling in the winter, I believe). Those parts of the course were very steep, rocky, and irregular – definitely not very conducive to running. We hiked those parts of the course, as did most people. A few ran past us, but the possibility of easy injury dissuaded us from following suit. That said, the first half or so of the race was definitely more suited for running. Out of the total course, about 10.3 miles (TM events are between 10 and 10.3 miles), we estimated that we ran about 6 or so. The rest we hiked or were, of course, on one of TM’s infamous obstacles.

Trying not to think about the thick mud coating the inside of my compression shorts D:

Trying not to think about the thick mud coating the inside of my compression shorts D:

The obstacles. Oh, the obstacles. There were over 20 of them, and certainly none of them were a piece of cake. The ones that I found most challenging were, predictably, the ones that required the most upper body strength. Though I did my best to work my upper body during my training, I think that there was realistically only so much I could do as a female and also in a limited time frame. Obstacles like Glory Blades – walls angled towards you that you had to scale – and Pole Dancer – parallel bars that you had to shimmy across with your hands over a mud pit – really challenged me. Pole Dancer and Funky Monkey – ascending monkey bars over a pool of cold, muddy water – were, frankly, more difficult than I had anticipated. I simply didn’t have the arm strength for them. Though I ultimately fell off both, isn’t that kind of the point? Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to “ace” them, so to speak, I am very proud to say that I did complete every obstacle, even if it was knee-deep in mud.

Candid shots from the course.

Candid shots from the course.

Most of the race, though, was about endurance, lower body, and core strength – which are luckily strengths of mine! I am very much slow and steady, which is exactly what is needed for this kind of event. That said, Tom and I still managed to finish in 3 ½ hours – an hour less than his time at his last TM! And 3 ½ hours also accounts for time spent waiting for obstacles, including traffic at one accidental mud pit that had become essentially impossible to cross without emergency volunteers and rope installations.

It’s an unpopular opinion, but I actually really enjoyed the obstacles that tested mental game the most. Yeah, the infamous Arctic Enema (a giant ice bath and you have to plunge into – and, yes, swim under a barrier in) wasn’t comfy. But I left it feeling oddly great. Yes, I probably am the only one, but it felt awesome to have done this physically and mentally challenging thing, this CRAZY thing, and did it with a smile on my face. That kind of endurance, that grit that Tough Mudder is notorious for testing, is really what I love.

Cheering Tom on as he did the "alums only" supplementary obstacles.

Cheering Tom on as he did the “alums only” supplementary obstacles.

At the end of that crazy 3 ½ hour, 10+ mile and 20+ obstacle challenge, I felt like I had 130% earned that Dos Equis! My darling family was there to cheer me throughout the whole race, and of course I couldn’t have done it without my dear teammate. Neither of us can wait to do it next year, and this time with a big team, we hope! I collected my swaggy technical Under Armor finisher shirt with a giant goofy grin on my face.

Muddy and scraped up, but grinning ear to ear!

Muddy and scraped up, but grinning ear to ear!

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Immediately after the event, TM sent out an optional survey that would allow participants to earn a heavy discount on a new TM ticket…

…So now I am already signed up for a 2015 event!

Peace, sweat and love,

G

5k foam fest recap!

Hi friends!

If you remember, I owe you all a review of my most recent race – the 5k Foam Fest! For those of you who do not know or do not recall, my Sweat Pink ambassador position with Fit Approach allowed me to join Foam Fanatics – a group that allowed me to participate in the race free of charge in exchange for help with publicity and ultimately a review of the race.

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I signed up for Foam Fanatics thinking, “Hey! Free entry to a race that seems pretty cool, I’ll take it.” I also figured that it would be good prep for my Tough Mudder training – like a much less intense, cuter little cousin to the now infamous race.

As a New Englander, I attended the Boston-area event. Unfortunately it was far away from where I live, but I understand that only so many spaces can hold such a large and elaborate event, and that it was meant to serve the greater New England area. The race was held at Kimball Farm in Haverhill, MA – something that I actually thought was a plus despite the distance for me personally. During the race I heard some people complain that the mud smelled and whatnot, which I thought was kind of silly. It is in part a mud run, after all, and that’s how mud smells! Then again this is coming from the girl who loves barns and cleans up after horses, so I’m not sure.

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Muddy and happy 🙂

The poor people organizing the New England Foam Fest, however, ran into problems with the town of Haverhill last minute and were told that they could not provide on-site parking for participants in the race. Ultimately, that meant that participants and spectators had to park at an abandoned greyhound racing track in Seabrook New Hampshire and take a “15 minute” (it was really 20-25 minutes) drive to the race site on a school bus. As you may imagine, this proved problematic during an event with thousands of participants. The lines for the shuttle were extraordinarily long, and I estimate that the shuttle ride plus the wait for the shuttles to and from the race site added an unexpected two hours to the total time I spent on this adventure. Unfortunately, the people at 5k Foam Fest really didn’t have too much of a choice – it is just unfortunate that this controversy with the town had to happen a mere 2 weeks before the event. 5k Foam Fest also issued a public apology via their Facebook page for the confusion. That said, this was honestly the only thing that I was bummed about. The race itself, once all was sorted out, was awesome. The helpfulness and flexibility of the staff on this undoubtedly stressful day for them also did not go unnoticed – they let me join a later wave with a smile when I (along with at least half of the other participants) arrived too late for my original assigned “wave” due to the transportation issues.

The 5k Foam Fest surprised me, but in the best of ways. Though free entry was awesome for me as a broke student, none of my other broke student friends could afford to drop $75-90 on the entry fee, so I was forced to do the race alone. Most people, understandably, did the race with a team or at least a buddy or two, so I was not looking forward to going it alone. To my delight, the race was so much fun that I didn’t even mind that I wasn’t part of a tutu-wearing team! Going stag was not an issue in a race devoted to fun, community, and healthy challenges. I smiled and laughed my way through the course.

The event is publicized largely as an athletic, but mostly just fun experience. I would agree that the race is more about fun, community, and laughter than simply athleticism. That said, it was still a physical challenge – I have the scratches and bruises to prove it! The course itself was quite hilly in parts, and like all other types of trail running, was much more strenuous than a road race (though easier on the joints, I suppose). Virtually everyone, including myself, ran-walked the course – the steep hills and injection of various obstacles at different points throughout the course really made it necessary. I did end up running most of it, however – those hill workouts paid off!

The obstacles varied widely, but each one was totally fun. Honestly there was not a single obstacle that I did not enjoy. In fact, I might have actually enjoyed what appeared to be one of the least popular obstacles – the ascending cargo net climb. I was really into the ropes-heavy obstacles, as I love climbing things and have done some rock climbing in my day. For a number of others, this appeared to be a big source of anxiety! I myself am ever so slightly afraid of heights, but I promise that this obstacle is nothing to be afraid of. I highly doubt it would even be possible to truly fall – it seems to me you would just get tangled in the net if you lost your footing.

Best of all was the fact that these muddy, dirty obstacles (I’m looking at you, army crawl under ropes!) were followed up by bursts of foam. At one point I was caked with mud and then with foam – I likely looked like I had been tarred and feathered. 5k Foam Fest also set up professional photographers at nearly each obstacle on the course – another awesome perk! They will be sending out high quality photos to runners soon. I imagine with the huge number of participants that such a task will take some time!

In the meantime, I have a few photos of my own to share from the event, courtesy of my adorable parents who accompanied me and excitedly cheered me on. They were only able to get photos from the last leg of the race, which ended with this epic inflatable “Death Drop”. Again, I’m slightly afraid of heights, so this obstacle was the only one that really made me nervous. But I closed my eyes and just went for it, and it was of course fine and fun. It was pretty unexpectedly exfoliating, though… All that dirt kind of acted as a high-speed scrub O.o

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My parents were so excited that they didn’t really seem to understand that it was a race and that I actually still had to run the rest of it, and that it wasn’t actually a photo shoot. Whoops!

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My parents trying to pretend I’m a fitness model or something.

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Soaked, muddy, and pushing for the finish!

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for too long after the race because, as I mentioned earlier, everything took WAYYY longer than expected and I had to get to work in the early evening! The event was fun and cute, though, and immediately after crossing the finish line the staff gave us protein bars, water, our finisher medals, and directed us in line to our t-shirts. That was really well-organized and convenient – the transition was seamless and really appreciated, as I was hungry and thirsty and didn’t know where to go! They also handed out giant sponges courtesy of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, one of their primary corporate sponsors. Admittedly this form of advertising was highly useful considering how muddy I was. I also got my choice of Mike’s Hard – appreciated after all that!

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The race swag was also pretty great. The medal was really cute (plus I love when races give out finisher’s medals!), emblazoned with their “Get Filthy Clean” slogan. The t-shirts were nice, too – not your standard unisex t-shirt. They had specific men and women’s cuts, and even though the t-shirt was cotton/poly and not a technical fabric which would be preferable for working out for sweatballs like me, it was super cute and I will definitely be wearing it when I’m out and about or doing one of my less sweaty workouts 🙂

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All in all, a really great time. I would definitely recommend this race to anyone that was interested! It is suitable for a variety of fitness levels, but anyone who wishes to compete should definitely work on some strength training even if they plan on walking the course in its entirety. And for the broke students and such out there – don’t be too scared off by the price tag! There are always coupons. In fact, I have a coupon code for you right here! Use my personal code “FF3316” to get $5 entry at any race location across the U.S.

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In the meantime, from the folks over at Foam Fest, I leave you with this fitness tip.

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Peace, sweat and love,

G