Can you feel it? That crispness in the air. The morning rush as your heart flutters for what’s to come. The excitement, the joy, the sheer bliss of the season! No, I’m not talking about Christmas… it’s World’s Toughest Mudder season. And with the arrival of one of the most badass, insane, grueling, “ohmygosh this is the most amazing thing in the world” OCR events upon us, this year I know I’m going to CRUSH this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder! Here’s how.
1. I HAVE THE RIGHT GEAR
Last year at my first World’s Toughest appearance, my OCR gear list was a bit… under-par, to phrase it nicely. Sure, I had the basic necessities, but as a novice going into this race with no pit crew and very basic gear at what ended up being one of the coldest World’s Toughest obstacle course races on record, let’s just say that my glassy-eyed goal to reach 50 miles at my premiere was a bit… shall we say, overly ambitious?
Long story short, I ended up only running 20 miles at last year’s World’s Toughest Mudder—30 miles shy of my personal goal. To summarize my mistakes: I froze up, stopped in my pit to try to warm up, and just didn’t have enough gear, or the right gear, to warm back up. That simple mistake of stopping took me out of the race because I just could not muster any more willpower to get myself out and back into that cold weather. Had I brought a pit crew to get my morale back up or get me some dry gear, maybe I would have had a different outcome. But alone, freezing, and a bit in over my head at my first World’s Toughest appearance, this was not an ideal situation.
This year I’ve prepped a much more detailed gear list. I literally made an Excel spreadsheet and started stocking up on gear back in August. This year I’m going with new tool kits and cold-weather equipment to cover all the race essentials I may need, making it easier for me and my pit crew to find exactly what I need as I move in and out of transition.
2. I’VE BUILT MY SUPPORT SYSTEM
This year I am using my support system to my fullest advantage. I called upon people to become part of my pit crew who I know will help motivate me to reach my goals. I’ve found the people who know how much this event means to me and will help boost my morale deep into the time trenches of that 3 a.m. night ops mind battle.
I’m also sure these people aren’t afraid of getting a bit down and dirty themselves to help me with small tasks like changing in and out of my muddy wetsuit. Unlike last year when I ventured to this event as a lone warrior, this year I’m bringing a pit crew who will help rotate me into dry gear throughout the night and provide during-race nutrition as I transition through the pit. I’ve even created a spreadsheet to help my pit crew hold me accountable for my laps and pace so I keep my transition times short and just keep moving; that is key to achieving my personal goal of 50 miles at this year’s Worl’d Toughest!
3. I’VE DONE THE TRAINING
This year I’ve dedicated my entire OCR training regimen to my performance at the 2019 World’s Toughest Mudder. I’ve grinned out the miles with running, putting in weekend long-distance runs in the wee hours of the morning to help develop my endurance and time spent on my feet. I’ve also taken my grip strength training to a whole new level. With a background in long-distance cross country running, obstacle proficiency has always been my weakness. This past year, I’ve made it priority to visit my local OCR gym on a weekly basis to practice techniques for more of the gymnastics-prone obstacles like Funky Monkey and Leap of Faith. Unlike this time last year, I actually enjoy workouts that include more grip-related movements like pull-ups and ring dips, which I know develop strength and movement patterns that translate directly into my obstacle proficiency.
(Photo credit: Jack Goras)
4. I’M DETERMINED TO KEEP MOVING
A lot of ultra-running is just about grinding through the miles even when the going gets tough. There’s going to come a time when I’m cold, in the dark, and alone on the course. This happens to everyone at some point in time and opens up the opportunity for the mind to start playing games. You’re cold? Maybe when you get back to pit you could take a break and sleep just a few hours. Tired? 20 miles is good enough, right? Hungry? There’s a pizza place just around the corner… You get the idea.
There will come a point in time in the race where I will want to quit. I won’t do it. I won’t let my mind win. I know my goals and know that no matter what, I’m going to just keep putting one foot in front of the other to reach that finish line. When I reach that dark point, I’ll focus on thinking how much sweeter it will feel to know that I overcame my struggle to reach my goal.
5. I’M PREPARED TO HAVE FUN
For many, World’s Toughest Mudder is a once in a lifetime opportunity. People travel from all around the world to attend this event. By far one of my favorite experiences while out on the course is to just look at a fellow Mudder and say hi! Some of my best friends, who I now consider my “OCR family” have come from random interactions on the course. My goal at this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder is to keep my spirits high, as well as the spirits of my fellow Mudders trekking along with me. It’s not uncommon for me to strike up a conversation mid-race with a total stranger.
In fact, it’s one of my favorite aspects of Tough Mudder, that you meet so many different people of diverse, different backgrounds, who come together for 24 hours to take on a common challenge of pushing themselves to the limits to see what their minds and bodies are capable of. It’s daunting. It’s a challenge. And for many of us, it’s one of the most insane things to do in our entire lives. But we’re all in it together. I can’t wait to see ya’ll on the course.
Danielle Kissel is runner, obstacle course racer, and lifter of heavy things—and the chick behind Muddy Warrior Chick. She’s 80% driven by her desire to succeed at races and 20% driven by all things unicorn, glitter, and donuts. (Banner photo credit: Jack Goras)