World’s Toughest Mudder. A 24 hour challenge that is viewed as the toughest event on the planet. This November was the 6th annual event and my first time facing the Vegas desert to earn my black headband. I went in as a newbie. Clueless as to how I would feel on course and through the night, and unsure of what exactly the experience would have to offer. I am now thankful that I have a better idea of what to expect when I take on the challenge again. While reading this, keep in mind that my opinions are MY OWN. They are also based off of the 2016 WTM venue, climate, and experience. Every person is different, each year is different, the climate is different, the venue is different, the whole adventure is always changing.
1. Shoes– Good shoes are very important. They need to be comfortable, have good drainage, and good grip. You will not want to be sliding around on course for 24 hours. I personally brought four pairs of shoes to World’s Toughest Mudder 2016. I did the sprint/first lap in Merrell All Out Crush shoes, completed four laps in Merrell All Out Peak, three laps in Asics GEL-Fujirunnagade, and I brought a pair of shoes to go home in. Some people bring more shoes than I did, and some run in one pair the whole time. Next year I will look at only wearing two pairs shoes through the 24 hours, but I plan on bringing extra just in case.
2. Wetsuit– Wetsuits are not just recommended for World’s Toughest Mudder, they are a near necessities at some points through the night. There is no telling how the weather will change, how the winds will pick up, or even how the constant in and out of cold water will affect your body. I wore two wetsuits during my time at WTM 2016, but I had a third one just in case the weather had dropped more significantly like it had in past years. The first suit I wore was actually a scuba suit. It was a Cressi 2.5mm suit and I wore it for laps number two and three. For Laps four through seven I wore the Xterra Vector Pro 4mm wetsuit. This was enough for me when paired with the other gear I had. I ended up choosing to take off my wetsuit and run in just compression gear my last lap. I had brought a Henderson 5mm wetsuit just in case I ever reached a point of being too cold in the 4mm one. Some people bring shorty wetsuits too, I know that I always run colder so I would only use full ones. I also had a wetsuit hood but I only wore it for about half of a lap in the middle of the night, I personally found it more of a nuisance than a help, but if it was colder I would have been thankful for it.
3. Headlamp– Headlamps are REQUIRED for going out on the course between sunset and sunrise. If you are looking to put in miles between these hours, you need both a headlamp and a strobe light. If you do not have these you will not be allowed on course so make sure you have a back up set or two just in case you end up losing one. I personally lost a headlamp and strobe on lap four on Funky Monkey the Revolution. As time goes on you sometimes start to get a little forgetful and I forgot to pull mine down around my neck, and of course I fell right in and lost the set in the dark murky water. I wore a Black Diamond Storm LED Headlamp and had a Nathan Strobe light zip tied to the back of it. I showed up to venue with two sets and left with one, next time I will bring three just in case another mistake is to occur.
4. Windbreaker– My windbreaker was my best friend on course. Getting in and out of borderline freezing water is one thing, having to stand in a cold breeze while soaking wet is completely different. A windbreaker does not make you warm, it does not make you dry, but it does block the wind from your arms/chest/back/neck/face. I brought three windbreakers but I only wore two. I wore a Merrell windbreaker for most of the event, but I also wore a simple cheap windbreaker from Wal-Mart. Grab yourself a couple $8 jackets and you are set for your outer layer.
5. Gloves– Your fingers will get cold. It will happen. The water and wind and physical exhaustion will all start to add up. I went to World’s Toughest Mudder with three pairs of gloves and I wore all three. Two were 3mm Neosport Gloves and one was a pair of 5mm Neosport Gloves. I took them off a couple times at obstacles and to dump excessive water out of them, but otherwise I was still able to use my hands, grip things, and I was much more comfortable with them on than with them off. Another great option for gloves is the Bleggmitt. I did not order these in time to use at this WTM, but this was one of the most popular glove options out on course this year, and I foresee even more of them out there in years to come. These gloves/mitts offer the ability to keep your hands warm and away from the wind while also being able to easily pull your hands out for obstacles that require grip.
6. Nutrition/Treats– Not only is it important for your body to eat throughout the experience, it is also beneficial to your mind. Try to plan foods that are going to help you feel full and give your body something to run off of, but also be sure to bring things that are special treats for you that will give you an added pick-me-up when you are feeling down. For my main food intake I had soups, bread with mustard, and McDonalds french fries. For snacking I had sour patch kids, grape tomatoes, and cheeto puffs. Try your best to have food that you can grab and go with to stay moving as long as possible.
7. Camelbak– Some people rave about them while others can do without them. Of the eight laps I did at WTM, I had my Camelbak on for five of them. Even though it is only a five mile course, there is only a water station at the half way point otherwise you are left refueling at pit. If you end up being out on a lap for two and a half to three hours you will need more hydration than one stop. Some people add nutrition to their pack (like Tailwind) I personally just kept water in it. This is a piece of gear that is not “needed” but you should definitely bring one. You would rather have one and go without using it than realize while you are out on course that more fluids could have led to more miles.
8. Compression Gear– Shirts, pants, socks, sleeves, you name it, there is a good chance it is being used by many through the night. I started off my adventure in a long sleeved Merrell compression shirt, Under Armour compression shorts, and Merrell compression socks. Through the 24 hours I used different layers and different brands (UA, Merrell, Dry Skin, Mud Gear, and Injinji). I always had some form of compression on my body. Not only does it offer a benefit to circulation and reduced cramping, it acted to protect me from sunburn and windburn.
9. Socks- Socks, socks, socks. ALL THE SOCKS. It is true that your feet are just going to get wet again, but there is something so uplifting about putting on a dry pair of socks. For my eight laps I think I wore five different pairs of socks. Injinji, Merrell, and Mud Gear are the brands I used for my footwear. You are going to want socks that will stay in place and not bunch up as you are putting the miles on them. Uncomfortable feet and toes will strongly affect your mental game. Just like shoes, some people choose to not change them at all while others may change theirs every lap. Bring more than you think you will use and have a few pairs on hand just in case a dry pair of socks is what is needed for a quick smile.
10. Pit Crew– This is another one that you do not really NEED. There are people who show up solo, without a ‘pit crew’. Luckily on a Tough Mudder course, you are never really “alone”. People at surrounding tents and spaces will be offering help throughout the night and asking if there is anything that can be done for you. There is also an unbelievably awesome Orphan Tent that has a group of amazing volunteers ready to assist in any way they can. That is what a pit crew is for. People you trust to give you that added push through the night. Someone to give a hand with a zipper or a pair of socks. Someone to help you squeeze your butt into a wetsuit at 3am. Someone to give you words of encouragement and a kick in the pants to keep moving and not give up. Someone who will be understanding if you are sleep deprived and hungry and grumpy and short tempered and say things you do not necessarily mean. If you bring a pit crew, bring someone that you love who will love you at your worst.
That’s it. The basics at least. Besides needing to be a little bit crazy and very strong willed, this just about sums up what you need with you. Of course there is more; a tent or place to put your gear, sunscreen, bug spray, batteries, hair ties, a toothbrush… the list of random goes on forever. Might want to start collecting gear now.
Will I see you out on course for World’s Toughest Mudder 2017?