Mudder – Competitor reading
Some interesting reading from a competitor with recognition from Rachel Watters – 2018 worlds toughest mudder competitor.
As a World’s Toughest Mudder novice, I was not sure what to expect, going into the race. I read the rules, I listened to pre-race podcasts, asked advice from past participants, followed the social media frenzy leading up to the event, and I scoured through articles and information provided from prior years. Planning for World’s Toughest Mudder was quite an ordeal in itself! While I had previously competed in other Ultra distance obstacle and trail races, preparing for a 24 hour event was a marathon of research, prepping, packing, and list-checking. At the advice of others, I purchased a full body wetsuit, neoprene gloves, neoprene hats, and a waterproof headlamp. I organized my nutrition, made a plan with my pit crew, and teed up at the start line with my heart on my sleeve. I knew it would be difficult and cold; I knew that I was embarking on the longest, most challenging athletic event of my amateur career to date. I was a little nervous and scared, but I was more excited than anything: excited to test my gear, test my legs, and test my strength against 24 hours of OCR. I knew that this competition would (obviously) be about the mileage and the ability to complete obstacles, but I had no idea this race would end up as more of a contest of grit than any other physical skill or athletic proficiency.
The 5 mile loop was relatively flat with only about 600 feet of gain per lap. There was not a lot of single track or technical trail running, and most of the course was gravel roads and dirt paths. Leading up to the race, there had been heavy rain in the area. Most of the course was extremely slick and muddy, with Georgia clay turning into slimy, shoe-sucking smush. The slickness of the running paths resulted in poor shoe traction, excess mud on obstacles like Everest and Mudderhorn, and the slowing of cadence. There were a few steep downhills in the woods that required the use of branches and tree trunks as stabilizers, but the course was still relatively “runnable,” despite conditions. The rain caused traditionally “muddy” obstacles like Mud Mile, Happy Ending, and Kiss of Mud to become swamps of thick mud that engulfed competitors like quicksand. TMHQ maintained the standard rules of allowing (and encouraging) competitors to assist each other through the obstacles and penalty laps were offered in lieu of obstacle completion; across several obstacle failures, participants would max out at an additional 1.6 miles in penalties per loop.
Stoking the fire a bit, TMHQ had some special rules and variations in place that allowed runners to make strategic choices about their race and to earn a “Golden Carabiner,” which worked as a “get out of jail free” pass to either skip obstacles or take alternate routes on course. Runners could earn a Golden Carabiner once hitting the 25 mile (5 lap threshold), as well as by completing more difficult lanes of specified obstacles on course. In the late hours of the night, both Funky Monkey and Leap of Faith included Golden Carabiner lanes that made the regular obstacle even more complex; completion of one of these lanes earned the competitor a Golden Carabiner. Runners could redeem their Golden Carabiner at any other point during the race, either skipping a specific obstacle or being allowed to take an alternate route on course that bypassed a stretch of obstacles. Another spark of ambiguity was a fork in the road halfway through the loop that opened at 8:00 PM; TMHQ had devised two unique routes that competitors could choose between, one having standard obstacles (Quagmire, The Bloc Ness Monster, Leap of Faith, and The Guantlet) and the other having electrocution obstacles (Eletroshock Therapy, Entrapment, and Operation). This “pick your poison” and Golden Carabiner approach to course design maintained the integrity of the 5 mile loop distance, regardless of the route taken.
The race started at noon on Saturday, and the sun was shining! With a little bit of a wind chill, the temperatures were still warm enough for the short sleeves and smiles. Our first lap was a 5 mile tour and preview of the course-no obstacles; competitors took a Golden Carabiner route through the first lap, bypassing a view of some of the obstacles. For the first hour of the race, none of the obstacles were opened; beginning at 1:00 PM, obstacles were methodically opened via a rolling start through the course. By 3:00 PM, all of the 26 obstacles were opened (except for The Stacks, which opened at midnight). Most competitors started their first lap with a strong pace, full of excitement and energy about the day that lay ahead of us. I saw and felt that speed and enthusiasm on course, as runners continued into laps two and three.
Hitting obstacles as they started to open, I finished my second lap wet. The heat of my running pace and the sunshine kept me comfortable, and the blue skies created a beautiful backdrop to the event. Coming back around Mudderhorn and into the pit area at the completion of my third lap, the sun was moving towards the horizon. The Georgia autumn wind started to pick up and I began to realize just how cold this race was going to be. I was able to complete three laps fairly quickly and hit my pit crew before sunset. My wetsuit and headlamp went on for lap four, and the wetsuit never came off until I crossed the finish line. Watching the sunset from Ladder to Hell around 1.5 miles into my fourth lap was a special memory from that day; this tall obstacle was placed at the top of a hill, giving a panoramic view of the streaked paintbrush of dusk settling over the race. By the time I came into my pit for my fifth lap, the sun had settled over the edge of the woods.
As soon as darkness hit, the temperatures began to drop. Many competitors decided to opt out of active participation and camp out in their tents, avoiding the course in the cold. Throughout the night (my laps six to nine, approximately 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM) the course was relatively empty. I experienced long stretches of running alone, occasionally being passed my elite men and spotting other headlamps through the woods in the distance. With the temperatures in the low thirties, many obstacles began to ice over – even the grass and trees surrounding the course began to freeze. Around midnight, the TMHQ team began to methodically shut down certain obstacles, specifically those that resulted in total head submersion, as well as some of the obstacles that had dangerously slick frost. As a precautionary measure to ensure runners’ safety, obstacles such as Under Water Tunnels, Lumber Jacked, Skidmarked, Berlin Walls, Cage Crawl, and The Gauntlet were closed until sunrise. Many of the other water obstacles did remain open throughout the night, including Augustus Loop, Mud Mile, Twin Peaks, Funky Monkey, Happy Ending, and The Stacks (once opened at midnight).
Even with the improvised TMHQ safety modifications to the course, competitors that continued to fight overnight for mileage remained wet, muddy, and cold. The vibe on the course had shifted from energy and excitement to quiet perseverance and steady focus. Runners fought the conditions and their own demons to sustain a pace quick enough to stay warm, but slow enough to maintain shoe traction amidst slick running paths and icy obstacles. Once the sun began to rise on Sunday morning, the dawn brought warmer temperatures, many obstacles re-opened for completion, and the hibernating competitors came back out on course to continue their quest for mileage goals and the desired “24 Hour” finisher headband. The course began to refill with participants, pit crew began to awaken with a renewed sense of vigor, and the festival area began buzzing with excitement again. By late morning, I was embarking on my final two laps, eleven and twelve; my pace had slowed to intermittent periods of jogging and walking, but I was determined to finish what I had started and reach my 60-mile goal. My last two loops were surreal and dreamlike, with the warmth of the sun back on my shoulders and the realization of the mortality of the event: my 24 hours was almost over. Despite the pain in my legs and the fatigue in my body, I felt so alive running across the finish line. This was my first World’s Toughest Mudder, and certainly not my last.
As I mentioned before, World’s Toughest Mudder became less of a competition of obstacle proficiency and running speed, and more of a test of mental fortitude and determination. Less than 25% of competitors reached 50 miles and less than 2% completed 75 or more miles, which were lower than most of the previous years’ result statistics. There was a clear division amongst competitors (and ultimately, finishers): those that succumbed and submit to the cold, and those that found comfort and resolve in the rawness of the adversity of their circumstances. Only a small group of competitors remained actively on course through the cold, ice, and solitude of the night; less than one-third of the twelve hundred participants maintained a continuous progression of laps through the dark. These are the racers that were able to put their heads down, remain determined, and march onward towards coveted mileage bibs (50 and 75 Mile threshold bibs). World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was just as I expected it to be; it was an obstacle course race designed to challenge your speed, obstacle technique, physical endurance, and athletic performance. But World’s Toughest Mudder 2018 was also something that many (including myself) did not expect it to be; it was a trial of overall tenacity, perseverance of will, and the mental grit that it takes to move forward in spite of cold, doubt, fear, and difficulty.
World’s Toughest Mudder 2020 is a 5-mile circuit race peppered with 20-25 of Tough Mudder’s biggest, baddest, most insane obstacles, including never-before-seen 2021 obstacles and a handful of World’s Toughest-only obstacles, at a rate of over 4 tougher-than-you-ever-thought-possible obstacles per mile.
World’s Toughest Mudder 2021 is a 5-mile circuit race peppered with 20-25 of Tough Mudder’s biggest, baddest, most insane obstacles, including never-before-seen 2020 obstacles and a handful of World’s Toughest-only obstacles, at a rate of over 4 tougher-than-you-ever-thought-possible obstacles per mile.
High voltage – similar to the electric eel.
Mud mile 2.0
Leap of faith
Unfortunately, no video is available.
The blackness monster
Ladder to hell
Kiss of Mud 2.0
Funky monkey revolution
King of Swingers
Here is a list of obstacles, past and present, that I may have not mentioned in my list of challenges above: (i may be out one or two obstacles)
Hold Your Wood:
Balls To The Wall
Unfortunately, no video is available.
This is a training guide everyone should look at:
Whilst there are women competing in Obstacle Racing, there are not enough compared to their male counterparts. Let’s find out why?
See educational facts about it:
In Layman’s terms: I have taken snippets from various articles of Women in sports and consolidated them:
Women don’t work as hard and the Pay Gap Problem
Because the races are shorter and the stages are fewer, professional female athletes don’t put in the same amount of training hours that men do. Since there is no equal work, there should be no equal pay. The counter-argument to this is that athletes insist they do indeed train as hard, but that they lack equal opportunities to prove themselves alongside men.
Women aren’t as popular
There is a lack of market appeal in women’s endurance, and ultimately the market determines how much an athlete should get paid. Spectators don’t want to pay to watch females race. The counter-argument: The perceived lack of market appeal exists because the media doesn’t cover female racing equally.
Women don’t get enough sponsors.
Sponsors help pay salaries and women don’t get enough. Companies aren’t interested in female athletes because they don’t have as much exposure. It’s not sexist; it’s just a business decision. But, if women have trouble getting sponsors, it’s because they face handicaps in media and race opportunities. It is not true that female sports are a bad business decision.
Women aren’t big enough, fast enough, or strong enough.
Biologically, men are built better suited for the sport. You can’t overlook the fact that men are simply stronger. They work harder and faster than women. The counter-argument observes that smaller athletes use different tactics and techniques than larger ones, but that doesn’t make them any less athletic, gifted or entertaining. Bigger is not always better, especially in endurance.
Women don’t get enough media coverage.
Why do people consider women’s sports as less deserving than men’s?
Many people think that if there was to be more media coverage or sponsorship of women’s sports it would be more popular with audiences. The media says that if women’s sports generated more interest in the first place then they would invest more time and money into it.
Most people agree on what it takes to make a sport successful: commercial appeal, interest from the general public, and media coverage. The fact is that sponsors are less likely to promote teams or individuals who don’t have lots of media exposure, and not many women in sports do. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that in 2013, women’s sports received only 7% of coverage and a shocking 0.4% of commercial sponsorships.
The lack of sponsorships and advertising campaigns also contributes to the increasing gender gap. Even though multiple brands and companies hire athletes to promote their products, few brands hire female athletes to become faces of their campaigns: most companies give preference to male sports stars.
The same is noted in mainstream media: much more time and space is invested in the lives of male stars as well as men’s only competitions than in women’s sports.
For these reasons, female athletes have less support, are less popular, have less of an audience, and the problem becomes a fish that bites its tail. The origin of inequality in sports is found in gender stereotypes and prejudices. Research conducted by Sant Joan de Deu Hospital in Barcelona indicated that 80% of young girls do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity by the World Health Organization.
Hence, to change the historical injustice of women in sports, we must start by changing today’s young generation of women.
Female Endurance isn’t news. The public just isn’t interested. Since 50% of the public isn’t interested in women’s sports, they shouldn’t get half the coverage. Countering this, it can be argued that it’s impossible to measure interest when there is little coverage, and few opportunities to see women play.
Women have less competition.
Because fewer women are racing, the competition is soft. A woman who gets the first female because she’s the only female does not deserve the same prize money as the first male who had to beat hundreds of his competitors. But, female athletes should not be penalized because other women choose not to race. Especially at the elite level, both genders have put in comparable time and training. Female participation is growing. Remember that women have only been allowed to participate for a short amount of time.
What can we do to improve these glaring inequalities? Here are some ideas courtesy of The Women’s Sports Foundation:
Attend women’s sporting events;
Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics;
Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports;
Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level;
Encourage young women to participate in sports; and,
Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete who is being discriminated against, advocate for her rights.
These are not women’s issues. These are societal issues of deep concern to both men and women. We don’t just need women fighting this battle—inequality lowers the quality of sport for us all, not to mention diluting the spirit of camaraderie and competition. We need to change this together.
In her book, As Good as Gold, Kathryn Bertine says that many devoted ESPN readers have promised to print out her columns and give them to their daughters to read. Kathryn thanks them, but suggests they also share her words with their sons. She writes:
I believe the beauty of athletics knows no gender boundaries, as stories of loss, triumph, underdogs, and superstars all ring true to male and female athletes alike. Giving boys articles on female athletes will have an incredible if the subtle impact on gender equality. Straight from the womb, many girls, like boys, have innate athletic drive and ambition. Imagine what strides could be made—what female athletes of all ages and abilities could achieve—if women’s sports were given equal coverage and attention to men’s.
The Female Body
We’re not shaped like men, so we don’t run like them. Here’s a look at some of the biological differences that can work for and against female endurance racers.
Women tend to be more flexible than men, which can be both a good and a bad thing for endurance sports. The extra flexibility is a result of a woman’s body structure and function — our hips are wider and our hormones allow our tendons to stretch for childbirth. We also have less muscle mass, allowing our bodies to move more freely.
Flexibility can be good in an athlete because it means that your body is moving slightly differently with each stride, and not putting the same load of pressure on your joints every time you stride and land. This can protect against injuries. “If you load exactly on the same point of your joint the same way over and over again, it’s going to place a lot of stress on it. With more flexibility, you’re not going to load the tissues in exactly the same way every time,” says Dr. D.S. Blaise Williams, director of the VCU Run Lab at Virginia Commonwealth University.
But flexibility is also a weakness. Looser connective tissues return less energy with each stride. It’s like having a lax rubber band — pull it and it doesn’t snap back. The top athletes tend to have extremely tight hamstring muscles, which allow them to generate more energy during each stride. So flexibility may reduce injury risk, but it also means that you are slower.
Most athletes are heel strikers, and women are more likely to be heel strikers than men. Heel striking is believed by many athlete experts to cause higher impact than landing near the middle or front of the foot, possibly contributing to an increased risk of injuries. In one of the few women-only fitness studies, scientists decided to study injury risk among 249 experienced female athletes, all of whom were heel strikers.
Remarkably, 21 of the athletes not only did not become injured during the two-year study but also had not had a prior injury. The researchers found that the never-injured athletes, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt. Not everyone can land as softly as this unusual group of athletes, but experts have this advice:
Consciously think about a soft landing. Some athletes, especially those with a long history of injuries, might want to experiment with landing closer to the midfoot, since many — but not all — runners naturally land more lightly when they don’t lead with the heel.
Consider, too, slightly increasing your cadence, which is the number of steps you take per minute, a change that also tends to reduce the pounding from each stride.
Imagine that you are running over eggshells or, even more evocatively, are a water strider, moving gracefully and weightlessly across the pond.
A woman’s extra body fat may be an advantage for endurance runners. Not only do women have more body fat reserves, but some research also suggests that a woman’s body may be more efficient at using body fat and conserving glycogen, which is the main way the body stores glucose and fuels exercise. For now, men overall are stronger and faster, but women are physiologically well-suited for endurance events.
Of course, there is a downside. While our body fat gives us more endurance for the long haul, it also can hold us back in the shorter races, slowing us down and making us work harder to run at a given pace.
In general, women seem to be better at pacing themselves during a race than men are. A Marquette University study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, gathered data about the finishers at 14 marathons and 91,929 participants, almost 42 percent of them women. Researchers found that at the midpoint of each race, men slowed significantly more than women racers did. In aggregate, men covered the second half of the marathon almost 16 percent slower than they ran the first half. Women as a group were about 12 percent slower in the second half. Far more men than women fell into the markedly slower category, with about 14 percent of the male finishers qualifying versus 5 percent of the women.
A woman’s heart is smaller than a man’s. A bigger heart can pump more oxygenated blood around the body. This is one reason men can run longer at top speeds. It’s worth noting that women’s hearts enlarge and remodel with training as much as men’s hearts do, but they start out smaller so also remain smaller.
Women tend to get more injuries than men, in part due to differences in the shape of a woman’s hips and pelvis that put more stress on our bodies. Compared to men, women tend to have less strength in their hips and core. Women also tend to have strong quadriceps — the big muscle that runs between your knee and hip — and weaker hamstrings — the muscles that run down the back of your thigh. This makes women “quad dominant,” says Dr. Williams.
This imbalance affects the stability of the knee. Together, weaker hips, cores and hamstrings can cause a woman to run with a collapsed posture where a female runner’s pelvis is rotated forward to the floor, making her knees more likely to bump into each other, and her feet more likely to pronate (roll inward). Dr. Williams says this physiology is much more common in high school female athletes, and women tend to get stronger and more stable as they age. For some, though, these weaknesses can stick around.
Pregnancy and motherhood seem to improve many competitive women’s races, both psychologically and physiologically. Paula Radcliffe famously won the 2007 New York City Marathon less than a year after giving birth, while the American Kara Goucher set a new personal record at the 2011 Boston Marathon barely seven months after having a child.
Many of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy can be beneficial for runners, exercise scientists have found. A woman’s heart pumps more blood during pregnancy, for instance, and she gains red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
Both of those alterations are beneficial for subsequent athletic performance. Pregnancy also is a kind of resistance training, with a woman’s bones and muscles adapting to bear considerably more weight as her unborn child grows. Most of these changes are not permanent, physiologists point out, but some do linger for a year or more after a woman gives birth.
On the other hand, women sometimes find that their running form is different postpartum and, for some, running may even become painful, probably because their pelvis has shifted its position during the later stages of pregnancy and childbirth.
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When you are ready to take on those mounts, Please take a moment and bow to people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
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