Worlds Toughest Mudder is not an event that is kind to the unprepared. It takes a combination of strong body and mind to make it around the 5 mile course for 24 hours. Fortunately, this is exactly what I felt I had two weeks out from the event. I had done some good training and felt prepared. Even with the same niggling injuries that had bothered me throughout the year, I was confident my body could manage one last round of abuse.
The race was billed as a massive show down between myself and previous team mate Ryan Atkins. I was sure I could make it as interesting as everyone hoped the race to be but with just a week to go my body seemed to have other plans.
On the Saturday, Sunday and Monday I felt shivery and achy. My body was fighting something but I had no idea what. Finally, on the Tuesday the damn broke and I was tied to the couch / toilet with diariah.
I thought that my race was now in jeopardy…but had I been smarter I would have known my chances were over. The Wednesday I improved a little but still hadn’t eaten much and struggled to even pack for the race.
Thursday I was undertaking the 18 hour journey and managed my first proper meal on a stopover in London. I was feeling better and the extra long day due to the time difference helped. By the time we landed I had perked up completely and at least felt like there was a chance I could race.
Friday morning I celebrated my first solid poo and registered for what is by far one of the hardest endurance challenges on the planet.
As I write this I can see how stupid I was, but the expectation for you to compete can go a long way to make you do so.
I had a brave face come the start and felt relaxed and ready. Perhaps if it had been a short race I could have pushed through and suffered the consequences afterwards but what would happen in the next 5 hours would be a revolt by both my body and mind.
The first warning signal was that I wasn’t hot. 30 degrees Celsius, with everyone sweating around me and I was almost cold. Once we started and got wet I was immediately cold and was already thinking about my wetsuit.
Coming into the pit for the second time I tried to eat some food and took a «food milk shake» (ca 400 kcal) thinking the calories would help. Starting a new lap I was alongside Trevor who won last year. After a mile I was bent over throwing the contents of my stomach up out of my mouth and nose. After a few goes I was finally empty and crouching down not believing the situation I was in. Trying to run again I felt dizzy and tired.
This is about where my mind abandoned me too. I was upset and was finding it hard to come to the realisation that I was going to have to quit.
I pictured myself heroically continuing, battling through and finally finishing even with the worst start known to man…but I knew now it wouldn’t happen. I finished the rest of the lap and “pitted” in the pit crew area. My dad and Scott tried to make light of the situation but I was at a loss.
I agreed to give it one more lap but not without putting my wetsuit on to help with how cold I was feeling. So with confused onlookers I donned my wetsuit at just 3pm in the middle of the dessert.
Starting out again I felt weak but was at least moving. My body wasn’t finished though and I now felt the need to empty my bowels… so coming to the halfway point of the lap I awkwardly tried to peel my wetsuit of so I could take a dump…worst start to a race ever.
I was now sure I couldn’t continue the race but was still upset about the realisation. Meeting people on the course I knew, emotions were getting the better of me and I would sob when talking to them.
I was done.
Finally making it around to the pit again I sobbed to the organisers about my situation and tried to apologise. They had helped me get to the event and I wasn’t upholding my end of the bargain by giving Ryan a race.
I felt like I was letting lots of people down. Heading into the pit I laid down and had every DryRobe within a 20m radius piled on top of me.
The plan was now to sleep in the pit, waking to help pit my sister who was also taking part. Thinking she may need some support on the course later on I resolved to sit in the pit the entire night; to leave would mean disqualification, so I wouldn’t be able to help her on course if need be.
She didn’t much need it though and showed true strength by stoutly battling the course through the entire night.
Come sunrise she was starting to not care about reaching her goal of 75 miles. She was only 2 laps away and I knew for her to finish with a silver bib would mean far more to her in the coming days and weeks. I offered to join her on course for the last two laps and she accepted.
By the second water obstacles I was once again cold and trying to mask my misery. This would be a long two laps…
Shortly after 24 hours of racing she finished and made me the most proud brother I have been in my life.
I was also proud of Ryan who performed one of the most amazing feats of endurance and mental grit I have ever seen. The course was far harder than the year previously but he showed no chinks in his armour clinching 110 miles before the day was up. Even if my body had been 110% I don’t think I would have matched his performance.
I was unsure as to how I would handle my disastrous experience but I am a believer in things happening for a reason (sometimes) and can already see many silver linings in stopping early. I have had a fantastic season and will not be letting this tarnish that. It is now time to rest up and enjoy winter training before coming back stronger next year.