Tough Mudder Ambassador Katherine Nicholas, a Denver-based Ambassador completed Equinox Ultra with her husband. She shares the highs, the lows, the training and the feeling of taking on a 12 hour endurance event.
I’ve spent the last year training. Constant running, hiking, cycling, climbing, yoga, walking, endurance, strength, you name it. We had big plans for 2020: multiple Tough Mudders, World’s Toughest, and an epic 18-day trek to summit Aconcagua. But our 2020 year of adventure took a sudden turn due to the global pandemic – cue Tough Mudder virtual challenges and ultimately, the Equinox Ultra. Suddenly, all of our hard work and training had meaning!
My partner and I signed up for the Equinox Ultra a couple of months ago, lured in by the opportunity for a challenge and pushing ourselves to the max. And wow, we got the challenge we were looking for! The week before the race we were emailed supply lists from TM Headquarters and Race Instructions. We had to gather items such as a 5lb bag of flour, deck of playing cards, a backpack, ping pong balls, a basketball, etc. My partner and I jumped in together and gathered our supplies and started reaching out to friends who we hoped we could convince to be our pit crew.
We spent the week studying our Event Plan and confirming our map for the five mile race. We chose to layout a 5-mile loop around the park next to our house. We were feeling good, prepared, and excited the night before the race. We gathered our gear and made sure our most comfortable race day clothing was clean and ready….which is about when I realised I was missing my favourite compression sleeve socks I had been planning to wear. Oh well, I thought, no big deal – I picked out a couple other socks and decided I would be fine (insert the foreshadowing on bad sock choices and blisters here).
Flash forward to 6 a.m., eating a light breakfast, drinking coffee, hydrating, tuning into the zoom channel to see the Equinox Ultra UK runners underway. At 6:45 the DJ came onto zoom and upbeat music pumped through our house as our pit crew arrived. Nerves and excitement were high!
And then, at 7 a.m., we were off! We had a goal of 30 miles. During the 12 hours you can run, walk, hike. We ended up choosing to do a fast pace walk, thinking that would be our best bet to maintain our pace for 12 hours and meet/possibly exceed our goal. It was a blast being out at the park so early in the morning with our Tough Mudder bibs on. We got high fives and fist bumps from neighbours we passed along the route, cheers from others. We had friends join us throughout the day for a lap or two to help us keep our pace and give us some new upbeat energy, which made the day even more special. It was a blast!
The real entertaining part (mostly for our pit crew) came between each five mile lap when we had to do the pre-prescribed challenges. The challenges were really creative and had us utilize items we could obtain easily. After our first lap, we came back to rows of playing cards laid out on our table by our pit crew, ready for us to draw five crews to determine our fate: whether we had to do squats, triceps dips, burpees or push ups and the number of reps determined by the number of the card we drew. Let me tell you, I got lucky – I had to do about ten jumping jacks, two squats, and ten triceps dips, nothing crazy. My partner? Not so much, he got stuck with tons of burpees and push ups. After we recovered (him still salty from an unlucky card draw) we were off for our next lap!
Another challenge that stuck with me was the 300 meter bear crawl. We had to throw on our backpack with the 5lb bag of flour inside, get down, and bear crawl for 300 m. Before Equinox Ultra I was not a huge fan of bear crawls (I’m still traumatized from penalty bear crawls on course during the Las Vegas Toughest Mudder). But after Equinox…I formed a very special despise for bear crawls that can’t even be rivalled by burpees anymore! At one point, an elderly neighbour peeked out her door as we struggled crawling past, and asks “What sort of self inflicted torture is this?” to which we happily responded “Tough Mudder!”. We had to dig deep on that one, especially since we were already multiple laps in at that point and were feeling pretty tired.
Each challenge presented its own hurdles and depending on how many miles you had under your belt, even simple tasks such as tossing a ping pong ball into a cup became really hard, but still brought tons of laughter and determination to finish.
About 20 miles into the race I started cursing myself for not finding my favourite race socks I had been looking for the night before. My feet started blistering up badly and walking was becoming more and more difficult and painful. This is where I was very fortunate to have a partner and support crew to keep me going. After about 25 miles I was really not confident I could keep going and make my 30 mile goal. But, we had time left and I knew I had to dig deep and try. My partner helped me keep up pace and pushed me to keep going. And then at about 27 miles our pit crew ran out to come finish the 30 miles with us, beers in hand. We didn’t finish at a fast pace, and my confident stride had become more of a hobble at that point, but we finished off 30 miles and tackled our last challenge. I’ve never been more happy to see matching face cards as I completed the “Concentration” challenge of planking while flipping cards with chopsticks until we made 4 sets of pairs.
The Equinox Ultra gave us the challenge we were craving and also gave us a head start on training for our Tough Mudder season. We are looking forward to getting back on course and hitting the mud again this summer, but in the meantime, these challenges have provided the motivation to keep going, keep training, and provide a fun and organized race day. I’ll be doing Worlds Toughest Mudder this fall, and if Tough Mudder offers another virtual Toughest we are 100% in.