Well I did it!! All of it! I completed the entire 6 km MudHero race just outside Toronto today. Being my first race of this kind, my goal was simply to finish it and to complete ALL obstacles (even the haunted house). Not only did I finish, but my time wasn’t even that bad. Sure, it wasn’t the 25 minutes that the 1st place finisher received (who by the way was in the 15-19 age group, WOW!!) but I managed to finish in 1 hour and 18 minutes. The average time was 1 hour so I was just below average, which I think it’s pretty darn awesome for my first time.
So what was the toughest part about this race? By far, the hills. Sure, running 6k on a road or fairly flat terrain doesn’t seem that hard, but throw in some grueling hills, complete with mud, tree roots and holes, and it becomes quite intense for a newbie like me. There was one particular hill between the 3 & 4 km marks that was definitely the toughest – plus most of it was not covered by trees so you had the heat on you… however, when you reached the top of the hill, not only do you realize that you only have 2 km left to go, you find out that you’ve reached the first water station and are able to grab a cup of water to quench your thirst, and maybe a second to dump on your head. lol
I feel like I learned an awful lot today about competing in these types of races. While it’s all fresh in my mind, I have added some tips for beginners to consider when doing an adventure style race.
1) EAT RIGHT – Although I’m no longer a “runner”, I did spend a couple of years in high school running cross country. I was never fast but I absolutely enjoyed the run. The one thing I found that I could never seem to combat though was that awful runners cramp in my right side. However, a friend recommended to me last week that this was because I was eating wrong before I would run. So I took her advice… and it worked!! Last night, I had a carb filled meal (chicken parm with pasta) and only water to drink. I skipped dessert and I did not eat anything after 7pm, choosing to only drink water for the rest of the evening. This morning, about 3 hours before my race, I simply ate a peanut butter sandwich and a banana. Of course still drinking lots of water until race time. Sure enough, not once during the entire 6k did I experience any sort of runners cramp!! Plus, I had a lot of energy and never experience any other sort of stomach discomfort, even after the race. I’ve actually been staying away from pasta & bread lately but I’m glad I put that aside for this occasion because it definitely helped.
2) CLOTHING: Yesterday I took to the web to figure out what was the best option for me to wear to the race. I read a forum where someone had said that wearing workout pants that go below the knees are best to avoid scrapes on your knees. I now realize that they probably meant TIGHT pants. I wore yoga capris. NOT a a good idea. Although they did protect my knees from scrapes, they were so weighed down by the mud and water that by the end of the race, they looked like long pants (as you’ll see by the picture below). Next time, I will either invest in a pair of tight 3/4 length running shorts or simply just wear shorts and take the scrapes. I did make a good choice for a top though – I wore a tight workout tank that I absolutely love when I do Crossfit. Tight is perfect for girls like me who have bigger boobs. Combined with a good sports bra, it held the girls in nicely and I never felt they got in the way of my running or obstacles. I almost ran in a t-shirt as I’m a bit self conscious about my upper arms but at the last minute, I changed my mind as it was just too hot to wear a t-shirt over the tank and I felt a t-shirt alone was going to leave the girls a little too much in the way if you know what I mean.
3) HILLS & TERRAIN – okay so I know I just mentioned this above but I wanted to stress that this is the number one thing to prepare for in the running portion. I was so worried about the obstacles that I never stopped to realize how tough the terrain might be. When the race began, I got a good pace going and felt great – and then we hit the first hill and it wasn’t great. It’s not like running a steep hill on the streets – you are in the woods! They are super steep and to top it off, many were muddy or had holes/ditches that your ankles would fall over if you weren’t paying attention. On my list now is to spend some time doing hill training before my next race.
4) DON’T BE AFRAID TO ACCEPT HELP – I was determined going in that I was going to complete every obstacle. You do have the option to either take a 2 minute time penalty or do 25 pushups to get around any obstacle you don’t want to/can’t complete. I learned very quickly though that you can complete every obstacle but if you are a newbie like me, you might need a little help. I had heard that the camaraderie and helpfulness of other participants in these type of races was fantastic and today I saw it first hand. I had reached I believe the 2nd obstacle which was an over-under course. You had to jump over a wall, then roll under another, repeat 2 more times. As I approached the wall, I gave it a giant effort but just couldn’t get myself up high enough. I was about 4 or 5 inches shy of where I needed to be to get myself over and I was starting to feel like a failure – that on such an early obstacle I was going to have to take a penalty. Not quite!! A gentleman came up behind and asked if I could use a boost. He got down and put his hands together for me to step up on and that was just what I needed to get up high enough so I could climb over. He then proceeded to not only help me over the other 3 walls, he helped another girl having the same trouble as well!! How awesome!
5) BE COURTEOUS TO OTHER RACERS – This is one that I think everyone, beginner or pro, needs to keep in mind. About 200+ people are running in the same heat as you so for the first km, it’s pretty packed. Not everyone is running at the same speed, some are walking, some are jogging and others want to run it full out. If you are going at a slower speed, please keep to the side and let the runners pass you. I saw so many (especially groups of people) who were chatting as they walked/jogged and seemed completely oblivious to the fact that there were others behind them trying to get by. We were all there to have fun but still, it’s incredibly annoying and on a hill where you are struggling to run up, it’s really tough to have to slow your pace down to stay behind others and you can lose your steam quickly. When in doubt, just like cars on the highway, slower traffic keep right. Then the runners can pass you on the left and everyone has a good day.
6) YOU ARE GOING TO GET VERY DIRTY – There really isn’t any way around this. During this particular race, we had to crawl through THREE mud pits. Plus, camo-crawl in the dirt, run through knee-deep water and climb over obstacles that are covered with the mud from those who went before you. Embrace the dirt, realize it’s all part of the experience and it makes for some great photos afterwards. Saying all this, DEFINITELY bring extra clothes, including extra underwear/bra and of course socks & shoes. Everything and I mean everything will get muddy. After, we were hosed down by firefighter type hoses. Even after getting hosed down completely, when I changed, my underwear and bra were so muddy still! Oh and bring a towel because when you take those things off, you are still going to be covered in mud. haha! You don’t need to look perfect after the race but you will want to go head over to the after-party to celebrate with your friends/teammates and even in the hot sun, you are going to get cold quickly if you stay in those clothes. Might even be a good idea to bring a pair of flip flops or crocks to wear while you are getting changed. The floor in the change room was disgusting from all the mud of those who changed before you.
Well I think that’s it!! I definitely recommend these type of races to ALL of you. Get some friends together, you can even wear a costume! Some people walked the entire course and there’s nothing wrong with that – because you are still walking faster than those sitting at home on the couch. 🙂
Now here’s a little shot of before (with my t-shirt on before I decided to change my top) and after.