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This was my 4th Tough Mudder in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia
My very first was the first was good, but I wasn’t super impressed. And although I had fun and was felt accomplished, I wasn’t dying to return. Then on the 3rd annual Whistler event a friend asked me to do it with her. I thought “Why not?” I discovered that the course designers had learned a lot, and it was so much better laid out and organized that year that I was hooked!
This year there were tons of greats!
The layout was really well thought out. It was a bit front heavy in running, but that turned out to be really nice especially at a cold event like Whistler’s TM. We got nice and warmed up before we even had to think about getting wet. The rest of the course was well spaced out for running and obstacles.
The King of the Swingers was the shiny new obstacle of the year. It is a new and improved Walk the Plank. Walk the Plank is hard for some because once you get up there and look down, it can be hard to make the leap. But the new obstacle gives you something else to focus on – a swinging handle you have to jump to and grab hold of. If you have some speed and aren’t too cold to hold on, you grab a hold and try to ring the bell followed by being launched into the cold lake below. No time to even think about how far down it is!
Then there’s the Arctic Enema. Always my most hated obstacle, especially since they added the slide. There is no getting away from full submersion. Even after doing it four times, I am shocked by how the body reacts. Instant body shut down mode. Blood rushes away from the extremities in order to protect the organs. The brain screams because it wants you to get out fast – you can’t even reason with your head and rationalize that you won’t be in there for long. It just freaks out. And lord forbid if the person in front of you is going too slow for you – politeness leaves you very quickly! If the person I yelled at is reading this…sorry!
My hands down favorite part was the sheer amount of mud this year. Every year on the post event survey I comment that I want more mud. But I didn’t have to do that this year! I have never been as dirty as I was this time. The new design of the Muddy Mile made it a lot more fun, and the extra muddy sections throughout the course were a blast! I even hit a sink hole at one point, leaving me hip high in mud and requiring help from fellow Mudders to get out. It also provided a comic relief moment for all because everyone stopped and turned to see what happened when I yelled out as I sank!
But as great as it was, there were some disappointments with this year.
First and foremost, the weather. While I know this is beyond Tough Mudder management control, two of the four times I have done this has been beyond frigid. I was bordering on hypothermic one year for sure. I found myself thinking that it might be better to schedule the Whistler event in July or August instead of June. A couple more degrees warmer would make a huge difference. I realize the point of the race is to do something difficult, push physical boundaries, and yes even suffer a little bit, but when you are that cold much of the feeling of accomplishment goes away and all you can think about is the shower at the hotel room. You start skipping the last few obstacles and even celebrating in the Mudder Village isn’t an option. You just get the heck out of there.
But onto things that can be controlled. Nutrition, safety and photography.
Nutrition on the course was sorely lacking this year. In previous year it was fantastic. Just when you thought you really needed something, there was a protein bar or energy gummy station waiting for you. This year was definitely not the same. In a 21 mile course there were several hydration stations, but only 2 nutrition stations which only had bananas. Most people running this race are not peak athletes so they have not trained to go at such a level without topping up the gas tank. And at a location that is bound to be more cold than warm, the body is going to spend a lot of energy just trying to stay warm – snacks are key!
I’ve never had a concern with safety at a Mudder event until this year. I didn’t see the first aiders in golf carts like I had in the past. I always felt before if I had a problem, that someone would be minutes away. Then at one high climbing obstacle in particular, we witnessed a girl fall. As she lay there on her back, unsure if she could or should move, I was very surprised not to see instant first aid attendance. She was thankfully just a bit shaken and had the wind knocked out of her, but it could have been quite a bit worse. There are just certain areas in a race such as this that should have first aid stations.
Warming stations are another safety element worth considering. I have seen one or two on the course before, but not one was present this year. Just a few moments of heat for an extremely cold person could make the difference between just cold and hypothermic.
Changing stations are always an issue at a Tough Mudder event and I feel that it wouldn’t take much to make them just a bit better. A bit of light, some heating fans, and at least TRY not to set up right in a mud puddle. Maybe some benches in order to lower the mud puddle effect while you are changing?
I think the biggest disappointment this year however was the lack of photographers present. I have some fabulous photos of myself and my whole team from previous years, but they are few and far between this year. We rarely saw a photographer on course. This is an experience unlike any other race and some photographic evidence of achievement is greatly appreciated. I believe many would even be willing to pay a small amount in order to ensure photos.
I love doing Tough Mudder. The feeling of accomplishment, the team camaraderie (see the Ladies of Tough Mudder 2016), and the stories that you have to share and reminisce on far and away outweigh any negatives. Once you do a Tough Mudder, all other similar races pale in comparison. Happily I (and most of my team this year) have already signed up for 2017. Hope to see you on the course too!