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Challenge Sophie: How to Survive World's Toughest Mudder
Challenge Sophie is constantly on the lookout for new ways to push herself and test the limits of inner strength, resolve and motivation. So we decided to task her with the challenge of taking on Worlds's Toughest Mudder last month in Las Vegas.
24 hours is a long time to do anything, let alone Tough Mudder. I know I'm in for a brutal but (hopefully) epic 24 hours and there's only one thing on my mind, how am I going to survive it?
I’m crouching in the dust with 1500 people in the middle of the Nevada desert. It’s 11:50 and we’re ten minutes away from the start of World’s Toughest Mudder. The aim of the game is to complete as many laps of the five-mile course within the next 24 hours as we can muster. There are 20 obstacles to face on each lap, involving crawling in mud, jumping in green water, electric shock therapy, climbing up a triangle rope structure called ‘The Giant Wedgie’, swinging on rotating monkey bars and jumping off a 35ft cliff into Lake Las Vegas.
Having survived and completed my goal of 50 miles (10 laps of the course) I thought I'd share with you my top tips for surviving! I know we all have different limits and different ways we choose to challenge those limits, so these tips can be applied to any challenge you do. If you want to get an idea for what the event was like, check out the film I made below:
In November 2016 I raced one of the most gruelling endurance events on the planet - Worlds Toughest Mudder. A 24 hour obstacle race in the Nevada desert near Vegas. The aim of the game is to complete as many laps of the 5 mile course in 24 hours. I didn't realise how much I was smiling throughout the event until I watched the GoPro content when editing my film. There was so much craziness on the course, and a lot of time to contemplate the craziness (aka question my sanity) that I had to smile and laugh at it! It always helps to smile. No matter how hard something is, appreciating all the good bits, the silliness of it all smiling despite the pain, helps us get through it and remember it fondly! After all, what's the point if it's not fun...
2. WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER
I've always loved the feeling you get on an endurance event or race when you look around and you just know that everyone is suffering. These might be complete strangers but there's an unspoken agreement of 'we're in this together'. This translates to company in the darkest moments, camaraderie, banter, help getting over obstacles and more. I had people I don't know helping me change into my wetsuit as night fell, feeding me and making sure I was still alive. They even wrote 'Don't die' on my bib. Ha! In WTM the night is 13 hours long so there were many dark moments! You need all the help you can get, this is not something that you do alone.
“We don’t finish at the finish line. We finish on the course and make it to the finish"— Sean Corville, WTM Host & MC.
3. NUTRITION 'LITTLE AND OFTEN'
You never want to feel hungry, thirsty, or on WTM another to add to the list, is feeling cold. The temperature drops significantly after dark so I put my wetsuit on whilst it was still light to protect myself from hypothermia. With eating and drinking, we had a massive raid of the local Wallmart the day before and bought all kinds of amazing food. I remember reading somewhere that you should buy all your favourite things as something to look forward to between laps. I had a few bites of food each lap (every 2 hours) to keep me going. I ate prunes, nuts, salty nachos, soup, hot chocolate, sandwiches, chocolate covered pretzels and more. It was definitely a highlight of the event!
4. BREAK IT DOWN
My goal was 50 miles. It took me 10 hours to complete the first 25 miles so theoretically I could have done more than 25 in the latter 14 hours. However, my time for each lap and rest in the pit-stop area increased as I became tired. I genuinely think one of the hardest things about an event like this is the thought of what you still have left to go. It's tough on the mind, just thinking about it. Breaking it down, focusing on one lap at a time, and giving myself breaks when I hit targets, was the way I got through it. For example, when I got to 25 miles I promised myself an hour break and although it flew by, it was pretty awesome!
“This course is designed to challenge you, it’s designed to punish you. We want to push you to your limit so you can find out what you are capable of "— Nolan Kombol, Product Director at Tough Mudder.
5. THE RIGHT KIT
In years of buying kit for my challenges, I have never seen such an extensive, expensive or important kit list as for WTM. Genuinely, if I didn't have some of the key items like wetsuit gloves, a hood, a wetsuit and a windbreaker, I would have been extremely uncomfortable and risked getting hypothermia. So much comfort can be gained from knowing you have the right kit to see you through to the end. When I started out in adventure sports, I bought stuff from charity shops or used hand-me-downs from friends. I know it can be really expensive!
6. LOVE THE PAIN
Let's take a moment to accept right now, that there is absolutely no point in events like WTM apart from what they mean to you and I. We do them because we want to believe we are capable of something that feels extraordinary. We do them because we want to see what it feels like to push ourselves to the limit and still keep going. We do them because they change the way we feel about ourselves, which has the ability to change our lives. In your darkest moments, remembering why you are doing this and harnessing your motivation will help you love the pain. We have to embrace it, not fight it. It doesn't matter if it breaks you, just so long as you get up and keep moving forward.
7. APPRECIATE THE MOMENTS
At 6am the sun rose over the Nevada desert and I can tell you this, it felt absolutely incredible! By this point we were well and truly on the home stretch. 18 hours into the race (with no sleep) and after 13 hours in the dark, feeling that sun fall on me, warm me, make me smile and know that the end was in sight, was genuinely worth all the suffering the night put me through. Everything passes. The dark, the pain, the sadness, the loneliness, the self-inflicted sufferfest, and sunrise is the mark of that.
8. BE THANKFUL
There were so many moments that made me smile, laugh and look back with so much gratitude that I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to race World's Toughest Mudder. I am eternally grateful for my body putting up with my crazy ambitions, for everyone who supported me from my trainers at Evolve, my physio team at Beyond Health, Tough Mudder for hosting me in Vegas and all the high fives and support from the team. Runner Beans for giving me a much needed boost on the course with a surprise visit. And of course, YOU. You guys rock. For reading my blog, sending me messages of support and so much more. I couldn't do this without you. Love you to watch and please share my film with your friends if you like it: Watch it here.