I have noticed over the past several months that many forum members have run, or want to run in a Tough Mudder, or similar event. I recently came off the couch to run in the 2011 Colorado Tough Mudder. all told I spent 17 Months re-conditioning my body to accomplish this, and I'm quite proud of myself. With that said, I don't claim that this is the best or only way to prepare for an event like this. If you know something I don't, please contribute!
This post started as a response to another post from someone looking to pick up a pair of Vibrams for training and to eventually run in a Tough Mudder. I was giving some perspective in the thread and somewhere in the middle of that I thought- I should post this as it's own topic so people can reference it, and hopefully ADD TO IT. Please add your ideas about training for an event like this.
My Tough Mudder training...
Here is what I did, and then I'll give you some ideas as to what I'm going to do to train for next year.
I literally came off the couch to run in this event- I hadn't run competitively since High school, I'm 36 now, and smoked all through my 20's (dumb I know) so I had a long road of 18 years deconditioning to overcome before the Mudder. Fortunately I was able to really focus in the final 4 months of preparation and got my conditioning in line with what was needed.
First- I went to a Sports Doctor and got a physical assessment. Tough Mudder is NOT a joke, and I wanted to be sure I was physically capable of making the run. Had the Doc nix'd the idea then I'd have been pissed, but I have a lot of things worth living for, so I'd have bowed out. In my case the Doc was pretty cool about the whole thing, and gave me a checklist to help me get started on my conditioning- VERY cool Sports Doc, I highly recommend finding one.
To get started I did a lot of roadwork. I was averaging about 12-15 miles a week by the time I was done. That doesn't sound like a lot- but it was more than adequate. The only way I have seen to really build up your VO2 Max is to train mileage. Considering my event was held at 8500- 11000 ft, I knew this would be a factor. I picked up Couch to 10k app for my iPhone and used that to get me started. I outpaced the program after about two weeks and then put it to bed, but it was a nice way to get myself going in my first attempts at training.
I have also been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the last year and a half- this was my primary workout before training for the Mudder. The school sponsors training runs on the steps at Red Rocks Ampitheater- I wish I had done more of those. Stair and hill work would have been REALLY beneficial. i'll be training those every chance i get before next years run.
Here is another thing i did- I used my Facebook page to raise money for Wounded Warrior Project- Tough Mudder gives you a donation page when you register. You don't HAVE to raise money to run in the Mudder, but I still managed to raise over $1000.00 for our wounded Veterans. This served an additional purpose as it also kept me accountable, and motivated in my training. Most folks gave $20.00 but a few of my close friends dropped over $100 each towards the cause- Money is hard earned. NO WAY was I going to fail them by not training to complete the event!
In the final 4 months I increased the intensity- I started rolling 3 and 4 times a week at the BJJ school. I also started building upper body into my cardio- we have treadmills in the basement at work so I'd go down there during the day and run a mile, then hit the weights for a moderately heavy set, then run a mile, then hit the weights again- this was useful training for the climbing obstacles.
I started using a volumetric exerciser to increase my lung capacity- the thing was cheap- bought it on Amazon for $12. I can now easily pull the max while maintaining the "best" flow rate. It's a cool thing. http://www.amazon.com/Hudson-5000-Voldyne-Volumetric-Exerciser/dp/B000C4MLGA
I put myself on a diet starting in March. I am 6'1, and I was 202lbs when i started. I went online at myapex.com and ordered myself a Bodybugg armband like the ones they use for "The Biggest Loser". I set myself a program for nutritional content- 60% protein, 25% carbs, 15% fat and then planned my eating habits around that, and a calorie ceiling of 1700 per day. My intended burn was 2700 calories a day for a 1000 calorie deficit. I was really focused on this, and totally quit fast food wuith the exception of Subway but still I only averaged 45% protein, 25% carbs and 30% fat month over month- it is REALLY HARD to get good, lean food and still be a meat eater, but i digress...
It still paid off. At the time I started the Mudder I weighed in at 176lbs. 26lbs lighter is actually a LOT lighter especially when you are hauling yourself over the 12ft Berlin walls- all 6 of which I assaulted without assistance. I intend to maintain my "walking around" weight at 180lbs- I feel great at this weight- more confident, and it actually shows on my face. I look like I did in my mid 20's (if you're not looking at my grey hair) I feel MUCH better than I did as a couch potato.
I ran a 5k "Tune Up" event called BeachPalooza early in June to see where I stood as far as conditioning. I ran the event in my Vibram KSOs. I had a blast, but 5k wasn't really all that challenging. There was very little elevation change, and if I'm being honest- the "obstacles" were a joke next to the ones encountered during Tough Mudder- still it was a good way to work on my pacing running in a crowd. I'll be running the 5k Warrior Dash in the Rockies @ Copper Mountain in August which is promoted by the same company as BeachPalooza- my expectations of comparative challenge are not incredibly high, but my wife is running with me, so it ought to be fun.
I Finished The Colorado Tough Mudder in 2hrs and 40mins- 10miles, I averaged a 16 minute mile- which to my old HS Cross Country standards... Sucks- HOWEVER, considering the terrain with it's monster climbs, and waiting for others to clear the obstacles, and then clearing the obstacles myself I'm going to say my performance was a little better than average. I'll be training harder for next time, definitely working on my downhill as I lost a LOT of time I could have made up on those sections.
Ok, so what would I have done differently?
1. I'd have climbed some trees. Not kidding. Tree climbing would train a lot of the dexterity and skills you need in the Tough Mudder.
2. HILL WORK!!! Dear God I'd have hit hills every chance I got- both up, and more importantly DOWN! My form was so piss poor in the downhills that I had to slow up or risk injuring my knees since I was basically heel striking in my Vibrams (REALLY BAD)
3. grip exerciser- you can find them at REI in the rock climbing section- monkey bars are a very grip intense exercise. Wish I'd have trained for them better. I am thinking of building some "training obstacles" in my back yard- adult sized wooden monkey bars will be part of this.
Some advice for people who intend to run a Tough Mudder
Dress the Part- for the Mudder I wore the following
1. a long sleeve rash guard shirt- this saved my elbows in the crawling obstacles, it dried out quickly after the water obstacles, and basically felt like a second skin- this was an extremely good idea.
2. 3/4 length Solomon running pants- my buddies made fun of me for wearing "capri pants" i had the last laugh when my knees weren't all busted up and snow rashed
3. northface running shorts- I'm too modest to be displaying my package in the running tights alone.
4. very basic, no frills Camelback- carry your own water! There are water stations, but they are few and far between. I took pulls from my Camelback several times during the run. You want to have water when you need it. Also, you want a very basic pack since when you get immersed in water the more elaborate camelback models may fill with water, and ice cubes (we had an obstacle that was just a vat of food colored water and ice cubes).
5. swimming goggles- these were pointless. the water is so murky you couldn't see your hand in front of your face anyway. Just extra weight, I wouldn't carry again.
6. Fingerless cycling gloves- these were great for every obstacle until i hit the monkey bars- i fell right off. This could also be due to weakness in my grip, but the gloves weren't a help there. Advice- wear gloves- take them off and pocket them for the monkey bars.
7. (most important for this forum) Vibram 5 Finger Shoes- I'm torn on this. I wore my Komodo Sports- the Vibrams were GREAT for the climbing portions, great on the trail running portion, great on the obstacles, but man did i suffer in those downhills. This is my fault for poor form, and lack of training but still... I'm not sure I'll run in Vibrams next time- and that is VERY hard for me to say since I love them so much. I will definitely train my downhill form in them, and see if i can't improve it to a point where I am more capable in them.
Other useful info
1. They are going to write your race number on you with permanent marker. They want to write it on your forehead- BUT you can have them write it on your neck instead! I opted for this, and as a result I was one of the few Mudders at the bar that night that didn't look like I had come from the worlds sloppiest Ash Wednesday service.
2. the Dos Equis Facebook updates are pointless- don't stand in that line. per discussions at the bar afterwards it didn't work for half the people who signed up for it. It worked for me, but I only got 3 so/so puictures posted to my page, all of which were on the Super G (possibly the lamest obstacle on the course) and there were 2 posts on my wall that were generic- my friends were going to try and use those to guess where i would be next so they could try to get there for pictures, but it was a wild goose chase. All my photos from the event are at the start, and just before the finish.
3. per the above- if you want pictures taken during the middle portions of the race, you need to have your people in place before the start- they can easily get around the course and eventually down to the finish line before you using the resort chairlifts, gondolas ect.
4. Wear your number on your chest- they use this for the professional photographs. Also- take some time after the pro photos are posted and browse ALL the pictures- this is how I found my avatar pic. My number was covered so they didn't send it to me, but I found it anyway.
5. Don't believe the distance they publish for the course- Tough Mudder advertised the Beaver Creek Course as 9 miles (approx) I hit mile marker 9 and still had the 6 obstacles to go! (super G, slip-n-slide, snow slide, monkey bars, Everest, and electroshock) I'd estimate it was closer to 10 miles maybe a bit over- that last mile was all downhill though, maybe they think that doesn't count LoL.
Here are my pics- posted elsewhere on the forum, but gathered here as well...
This is me, with my friend Kristie before the start. Kristie was the person who told me about Tough Mudder last year. She was telling us about this event she wanted to run and I think she was half expecting my wife and I to think she was crazy- instead we said "I'll do that with you" LoL. My wife didn't make the run because she failed to meet some fitness milestones she had put forth, but she is well on her way for next year and has committed to Warrior Dash in August as well as a few other 5k events.
This is a pic that was meant to be posted on a friends Facebook wall- Bill Caswell is an inspiration to me. His efforts are automotive related, but basically he races an old BMW in World Rally, and hillclimb races all over the continent. The story of how he built a $500 BMW he bought on Craigslist into a racecar, and then raced it against $250,000 purpose built race cars to 3rd place in a World Rally Championship in Mexico has been optioned by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and picked up by Paramount to be made into a motion picture- currently the working title is "Slingshot". Bills moto? Build. Race. Party! I adapted it for Tough Mudder Train
. Race. Party!
So here is what i posted on Bill's FB page- that is his sticker on my Camelback.
Here i am at the bottom of the start
Coming off the Super G- notice my short stride? Poor downhill form FTL...
running down what was supposed to be a slip-n-slide. The material my shorts were made of didn't allow me to slide on the surface- so I ran down instead. i like this pic as it looks like the TM Logo but with water behind me instead of fire...
Running away after the slides- much better stride here. Ran well on more level ground...
approaching Electroshock- it stunned me (no pun intended) how many people came full stop in front of the obstacle- YOU COULD SEE THE FINISH LINE!
The birth of an avatar... I chose to hit the Electroshock at full speed- i got zapped about 3 times as i went through. My friend kristie got knocked out- seriously, she went out and fell face first into the hay bale i am vaulting here. The pictures of her getting back up are EPIC! I'll see if it's cool to post them here.
Kristie and I at the finish- Headbands earned, and in place!
GOOD TIMES! Seriously, if you are thinking about it- DO IT. It was awesome. I'm all pumped up again just remembering it.