Tough Mudder Interview

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My good friend and workout partner, Sarah Clark, recently participated in a Tough Mudder race that came to our city. While the race is fresh in her mind, I thought I'd pick her brain a little bit for an insider interview. Any of you signing up for Tough Mudders out there, listen up! This interview has some great useful tips in it.

1. So, this was your first race of any kind, which I think is really amazing. What did you think of it?

It was epic! I was so proud of my team, how we encouraged each other throughout the race and didn’t leave anyone behind. It helps to have a strong, supportive team for an event like this. People ask me, “Was it fun?” and I think I’m finally to the stage where I can admit that yes, I did have some fun.

2. Now 5ks might sound like a bit of a cakewalk to you. Do you think you’ll do any more races in the future?

It definitely got me pumped to run another race. . . Maybe a 5K next time, that’s a little easier.

3. Tell me what you did to prepare for the Tough Mudder, including gear and race-day preparations?

On race day, we taped down our laces so our shoes didn’t fall off in the mud. My team wore lightweight, moisture-wicking shirts and compression pants that would dry quickly and not weigh us down. The women wore arm bands to help protect our forearms during the obstacles that involved crawling through the mud. Of the six of us, almost everyone on the team wore gloves, which was a huge help. On my feet, I wore a pair of running shoes that had been broken in but were still in pretty good shape, and it was the best decision ever: no blisters.

4. Would you do anything differently the next time?

I definitely would work a lot more on building up my upper body strength. You need that for getting over the walls. I would also do more long-distance running. I read that to prepare for a race you should be able to run twice the distance of the race. For the Tough Mudder, that would be almost 24 miles.

5. How did you train physically for the race?

I feel like I wasn't nearly as prepared as I should have been as far as running the distance. I did a lot of 2-3 mile runs, 2-3 days a week, which with my busy schedule, was what I could manage. The Tough Mudder also has Mudder training workouts on their web site that I printed out and powered through 3x a week with a friend (Yours Truly). Those were great workouts.

6. Tell me about some of the toughest obstacles you had to endure?

The Tough Mudder tests not only your physical strength but your mental strength as well. Physically, the climbing obstacles like Blades of Glory, Berlin Wall and Everest would have been the toughest, but the guys on my team boosted, tugged and pulled me through. Funky Monkey I knew I wouldn't be able to do so I just jumped in the water. Mentally, the Arctic Enema and Walk the Plank were the toughest. I really didn't think I was going to be able to make myself do them.

7. Were there any obstacles or moments that made you think that you might give up?

I never felt I wanted to give up but I was really close on taking a pass for Walk the Plank. I got up to the top, looked down into the water 30 feet below and started freaking out. I let a few people go ahead of me and looked for a way to climb back down, but the way it’s set up, they don’t make that a viable option. I concluded the only way down was to jump, so I did.

8. What obstacles or parts of the race are you most proud of accomplishing?

I’m really proud of my whole team for everything we did at the race. Before you start each obstacle, you watch the people ahead of you go through it and try to figure out a strategy. When you get through it you look back and think, “I can’t believe I just did that!” As for myself, the most sense of accomplishment was the Arctic Enema and Walk the Plank. If it wasn't for the team urging me on, it might not have happened.

9. What was the experience of crossing the finish line like for you?

It was really emotional. The last obstacle is Electroshock Therapy and we were told to all link arms and go through it together. We marched right through, taking shocks along the way, knowing the end and a cold beer were waiting for us on the other side. As soon as we finished we screamed, “WE DID IT!” and wrapped our arms around each other. After that, I needed a nap.

10. And how did you feel afterward or several days later? Any lingering effects?

I was relived to discover only minor battle scars. There were definitely some bruises, mostly on my legs from going over the walls. My arms were the most sore, since they were the weakest. But a little bit of pain medication and rest made that dissipate in only a couple of days.

11. Was there anything about the race that was completely unexpected?

There were a lot of hay bales to jump over along the course. I knew there would be smaller obstacles, “Road hazards” I think they were called, but those were tough!

12. What kept you going? Did you repeat any mantras in your head, use any mental tricks, get encouragement from your team, or anything like that? (you mentioned the funny drill sergeants…, did they help?)

About halfway through, my legs started cramping up so I would periodically slow down and do some stretching. It almost felt better to keep running instead of walk. We definitely encouraged each other. And if the rest of the team was starting to get ahead, we’d shout words of encouragement to the stragglers. Some of us had minor injuries and had to slow down at times, but we never left a Mudder teammate behind. Because the course switched back quite a bit, we could usually hear the music playing near the start, which also helped. Some of the obstacles had drill sergeants that would bark funny comments at us to keep our spirits up.

13.  Now I know that Tough Mudders and other similar challenges can ruin your shoes and clothes (and I guess even your body). What were your damages and what did you do about them?

I was really happy about how well my gear held up. We all made sure to wear dark clothes so the mud stains would not show. Most of my team donated their shoes to the big muddy shoe pile for charity at the end of the race, but I just couldn't let go of my favorite pair. I brought them home, hosed them off in the driveway, along with all of my muddy clothes, hauled it all to the laundromat, added some Oxyclean and detergent and my gear came out like new! The only real casualty was that my shirt got a little ripped where the race number was pinned on, but I consider that par for the course.

14. You are the graphic artist behind your fun team uniform, which I think is really neat. Could you tell me a little bit about the shirts you designed?

I went off the catchphrase “Fear the Beard”, because it sounded tough and my BIL is sporting a pretty huge beard these days. It’s the silhouette of a man with a long pointy beard that also looks like two Mudders helping each other out. My husband also grew a big beard and the ladies painted on goatees for the race. The hair was fireworks, in reference to a little incident we had on the 4th of July this year, and a headband rocked our team name The Clarktastrophe. The back of the shirt listed all of our nicknames.

15. Do you have any advice for other Tough Mudder newbies or anything that you wish you would’ve known beforehand?

Build up your endurance and your upper-body strength. Make sure if you tape your laces, secure the tape and don’t make it too tight. Most of us lost our tape midway through, and the one that I didn’t lose was wrapped so tight it injured the tendons in my foot for a few days. Remember to help out your team and fellow Mudders, and most of all have fun!

Thanks so much Sarah for sharing about your experience and offering some helpful insights. I'm so proud of you--you rocked this! I'll see you at the gym:)

P.S. I'm so glad you explained your T-shirt design. I totally didn't see the two Mudders helping each other out in the beard. Way cool!

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