This post is long overdue and shares my experience running the Tough Mudder Tri-State a few months ago. I was six months postpartum at the time, and I felt good going into it, even though I knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete everything.
Here are the details along with some tips that I learned along the way!
I always knew that I wanted to sign up for an intense endurance obstacle race like the Tough Mudder, but I didn’t know I would be doing so at six months postpartum. The power of FOMO when your normal race partner signs up and invites you to join is real, y’all. That said, I survived, and I have every intention of doing it again … eventually!
To say that I was nervous to see what I was up against while feeling under par in my peak fitness level was a serious understatement. I wasn’t sure what to expect besides a lot of challenges, and I really didn’t know if I would make it through them. The good news is that you can opt out of any obstacle you get to throughout the race. Opting out wasn’t my goal, of course, but it was comforting when I found that out, as I wasn’t about to twist an ankle from falling from an all upper body strength obstacle (as I’m still slowly getting that back postpartum).
Scott signed us up for the 2018 Tough Mudder Tri-State Mud Run and showed no mercy when selecting the “Full” course for both of us. (True story: I had no idea I was running the Full until we got there.) A friend who works for the company provided us with complimentary tickets (thank you!), and Scott registered both of us as soon as he found out that one was coming to an area near us.
We came, we saw, and we conquered. Now, here’s what you need to know about the race and my tips for running it for the first time!
The Tough Mudder Challenge is broken down into three different levels:
- Tough Mudder 5K – 3 miles and 13 obstacles
- Tough Mudder Half – 5 miles and 10 obstacles
- Tough Mudder Full – 10 miles and 20 obstacles (our course was 12 miles!)
Each city and Tough Mudder event has different distances under those categories, and there is also a Mini Mudder for kids that is one mile long with 8+ obstacles.
If the challenge doesn’t do it for you, you can check out the Tough Mudder Race Series that includes competitions (the Tough Mudder Challenge series is not timed and you don’t compete with others), races through the night, and up to 24 hours of straight blood, sweat, and tears. (Yowza!)
What To Wear
I wasn’t sure what to wear to a mud obstacle course that required running a long distance. After researching online and running it myself, I would recommend wearing a moisture-wicking top and bottom. I wore a short sleeve, but would probably wear a long sleeve next time if the weather wasn’t too hot. I would have appreciated the extra coverage when crawling on the ground and pulling myself over things.
I wasn’t sure whether I should wear leggings or shorts and I went with an old pair of cropped leggings that I didn’t care about. (I’m pretty sure this is a given, but go ahead and count anything that you wear to this race trashed.) They weren’t the thickest leggings, however, and I regretted not having a better layer or more protection on my legs throughout the obstacles. I think I would wear compression tights next time, or if it’s hot, shorts and high compression socks.
I wore a supportive sports bra, so that was a win and a must. I didn’t, however, think about anything special that I would need to wear under my leggings. I definitely should have worn a bathing suit bottom, as you are submerged into pools of water multiple times.
I wore Bombas, which are great for working out, but I should have gone with a sock that also had a quick dry feature. I had squishy socks and shoes for hours after the first ten minutes in, and it wasn’t the best feeling. Scott actually wore two pairs of socks. I’m not sure if that is better or worse!
If you’re interested in learning more from the pros, there is a What to Wear page on the Tough Mudder website.
I’m not going to lie … the obstacles terrified me. I quickly became overwhelmed at some of them while watching videos online, so I decided not to do my research here. That isn’t the best strategy, but it worked for me.
Going into the race at the level I was at six months postpartum, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to complete everything. My strength just wasn’t there, and that was okay. Not only that, but some require a crazy amount of upper body strength and include challenges you would see on American Ninja Warrior. Scott, on the other hand, completed all of them. I was so proud of him!
Like I mentioned earlier, you can choose to opt out of any obstacle you’d like, which I think is key for anyone attempting the course for the first time. After you see it all, you get a sense of what you should be training for in the future.
I gave my best effort towards all except two (strictly upper-body focused) that I knew I would fall on right at the beginning. I didn’t see the reward over the risk of falling and hurting myself there. I also decided not to go through the Arctic Enema (the name says it all) that requires you to go underwater and under walls in a muddy ice bath. Some of you know that I have a legit fear of dark water and I don’t even go into the lake or ocean water if it’s cold. I’m hopeful that I’ll get over it and complete it the next time around, but this time I was just too mentally and physically exhausted.
I want to say that the hardest obstacle was the Everest wall where you had to scale a huge ramp wall and pull yourself over with the help of others.
That was hard, but I think that most of the challenges were just as difficult, all in different ways. The obstacles that had you crawling up muddy walls and treading muddy water were extremely hard. The Electroshock Therapy wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be, but then again, I kind of cheated by army crawling the whole way on the ground. (I was not going to get shocked! Ha.)
My Favorite Parts
While the Tough Mudder name speaks for itself and there was a runner’s high feeling when crossing that finish line, my favorite part about this race was the sense of community. You literally had to work together with a team of complete strangers to get past some of the obstacles. People were there to help us over and up things, and in return, we helped others. Well, Scott did. I did my best to help as much as I could and cheer people on.
Nobody was in a hurry, and you go at your own pace, which I also really liked. I didn’t feel pressured to sprint when I needed to catch my breath, and I had time to mentally and physically prepare and recover from things.
Overall, I really surprised myself. Yes, I could have done a lot better and completed more obstacles, but I’m pretty freaking proud of what I did.
At six months postpartum (and for those of you who haven’t grown and birthed a baby — your body is completely different six months later. While I was starting to look like my old self, it took a lot of hard work and workouts to get my strength back.), I was able to run/walk twelve miles, throw myself over walls, crawl through mud, use muscles in my body that I didn’t even know that I had, and carry Scott in a Hero Carry! (This obstacle started with Scott holding me piggyback and then you had to switch halfway through. I had no idea that I could carry him, much less at a jog!) We left exhausted but very proud of the work we put in and accomplishments that were met.
Things To Bring
There was plenty to do after the race, and we stopped at the beer tent for a complimentary beverage as soon as we finished. We earned it, dangit. After that, we went to the rinsing station and rinsed as much mud out of our outfits as we could. There weren’t full showers or towels available, but I was thankful for the clean water nonetheless.
I brought a backpack with me and was able to check it by the start line to pick up afterward. I packed a towel, a complete change of clothes, and another pair of running shoes. I’m glad I did because my clothes were still consumed in mud, even after I washed them. Since I have my fair share of running shoes at home, I donated the ones that I wore in the race to the drive they provided. I loved that the option to do so was available!
To summarize, here’s what you need:
- photo ID for check-in
- moisture wicking outfit
- running shoes with traction — bonus if they also have a drainage feature
- full change of clothes including sandals or another pair of shoes
- towel for after your rinse
- baby wipes — you’re going to need them!
- garbage bag or reusable wet bag for your dirty, wet clothes
- water — they provided some but the last thing you want to be is dehydrated
- pre and post-race fuel (they provided snacks throughout the course!)
- durable bag or backpack that you don’t mind getting wet
- extras: anti-chaffing cream, gloves, sunscreen
- A POSITIVE CAN-DO ATTITUDE!
And lastly, a summary of tips for your first Tough Mudder:
- Be easy on yourself — this course is tough enough to have tough in the title.
- Be prepared to get wet and run 5-10 miles with mud in your shoes.
- Opt out of the obstacles you need to.
- You will need support from others, so I would strongly suggest signing up with a partner if not an entire team!
- Plan to arrive with plenty of time before your wave starts. We got there 45 minutes early and barely made it past check-in and the bag check before we were needed at the start line.
- Avoid cotton materials — see moisture wicking suggestions above.
- Train outside before the day of the course. Working out inside and lifting weights will help, but doing activities like climbing hills, and walls or lifting tires or logs will help prepare your body for what you will be doing.
- Remember that you’re not alone! Some of the obstacles require that you depend on others to help you through.
And with that, I’m going to wrap this long-winded post up with a simple “You got this!”
Thanks so much for checking in, and best of luck to you out there.
I’ll be sure to check in again if/when the next one rolls around!
Disclaimer: While I received two entry tickets to the Tough Mudder, this is not a sponsored post. The pictures featured in this post are all from the Tough Mudder website and were taken on the event day that I attended. All opinions remain my own.
I really miss these mudder races.
Once this all ends, I would definitely go for these races. They will not only lift my mood but also give that endorphins rush.
We need to uplift ourselves in these troubled times.
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Thank you for this, Heather! What sort of training tips would you have for a teenager? Quarantine hasn’t been great on my body so I’m not very in shape, but I do mountain bike and that’s a full body workout! What would you recommend focusing on in training?