“THIS IS MY RIFLE, THERE ARE MANY LIKE IT BUT THIS ONE IS MINE. MY RIFLE IS MY BEST FRIEND. IT IS MY LIFE. I MUST MASTER IT AS I MASTER MY LIFE. WITHOUT ME IT IS USELESS, WITHOUT MY RIFLE I AM USELESS.” -Full Metal Jacket
I was thinking about this quote the other day as I reflected on my journey through obstacle racing. I remember my first Tough Mudder like a distant fading memory. The rush was exhilarating and I wanted more…right away. I wanted to mainline adrenaline. A funny thing happened, though….the second wasn’t the same…nor the third. So thing’s escalated to bigger, badder, and longer (Michael Scott) events. I fell into the Endurance OCR trap. Specifically, World’s Toughest Mudder.
World’s Toughest Mudder consumed me. The training, planning, budgeting, talking, and social media-ing consumed me. So much so that it began to define me. I wore it like a badge of honor leading up to my first WTM, and I was most likely an asshole about it. Oh, you ran a Spartan Sprint up a mountain and got 5th in your age group? That sounds really fun and all but I’m here to train for a 24 HOUR event (pats self on back). You should try it too; it’s super mega ultra elite badass! I even distance shamed my fake internet HVAC nemesis Hobie Call about it, as if in some magical place me competing in a 24 Hour Tough Mudder elevated me anywhere near his athletic ability. The good news is that I eventually got over it. After actually doing the event, it “literally” took me to the brink of the most cliche thing that I could type here. I didn’t find “myself,” but I definitely found something within myself and will always remember walking alone in the dark up a hill talking to myself and repeating my wife’s and childrens’ names so I could continue to push on. I did that for two more years, and much like my first Tough Mudder, my second and third World’s Toughest Mudders didn’t quite feel the same. After 2016, I figured I might actually take the advice that Sean Corvelle gives at the start of every Tough Mudder and “try something for the first time” and maybe even escape the ordinary. This year, instead of chasing something, I’d like to experience something new and help a first time World’s Toughest Mudder by being his pit crew (what’s up Garfield). I’ve heard great things from previous competitors like Yancy Culp, Miguel Medina, and Joshua Gustin Grant about pitting and would like to experience the event from a different perspective. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Oh, by the way, Tough Mudder then decided to announce an 8-hour Toughest series with multiple locations. I guess we will see if I’m full of shit or not…
Truth be told, I almost didn’t make it to the highway to drive up to Toughest last week. I took a new job in New York roughly 2 months ago and have been working there and traveling back to see my wife and children in Virginia every weekend. When I committed to the event, I hadn’t even interviewed for the New York job yet; so, needless to say, we were making it work. I am averaging around 16 hours of driving from Friday to Sunday and last weekend was only slightly different. I made it down earlier than usual Friday and left 4 hours before the kids’ bedtimes on Saturday so I could arrive with some time to rest in Philadelphia before the midnight start of Toughest. Enter my son, Chase. A few hours before my departure, I took him for a ride with me to The Home Depot to buy some wood. I told him how much I missed him and he responded, “Daddy if you miss me so much just stay.” Shocked, I responded, “you will all be moving to New York as soon as your school ends in a few weeks, buddy. I promise.” Now, Chase was referring to our current living situation, but it struck a chord with me and made it much harder to leave this weekend than weekends before. Did I make the wrong call leaving earlier to do an event? I don’t know, but it sure felt that way. Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee in hand, I was on to Philadelphia.
America’s Toughest Mudder Northeast ran like a well-oiled machine. I think it was actually more organized than WTM with like 400 less participants. Here are some examples:
- I got to parking earlier than I was supposed to, and instead of being turned away, they let me in. That never happens. Score!
- Registration was set up alphabetically, and they let us line up early for that as well. It was a good opportunity to get some socializing out of the way and see everyone before it was go time. Once they opened up, it went quickly and smoothly. Smoother than a regular Tough Mudder.
- I found the pit set up to be simplistic and effective. While there were a few stragglers trying to sneak into my spot, for the most part, everyone was cool. I haven’t heard of anyone having anything stolen, so I’d say it was a success!
- There was grass to take a knee on instead of sand and rocks. This made taking a knee during Sean’s speech much more enjoyable
- Kris Mendoza.
- Matt B. Davis was in China (seriously).
- Hang time was a blast
- The design of these bibs is super dope.
- While one 5-mile Loop and one sprint lap instead of two reduced some mileage, it was nice not having to think about running a different course.
- Tough Mudder has really good big obstacles.
Operationally, my only real critique is that there was no coffee vendor at the end of this thing. I had to drive 16 minutes to a Starbucks-like an hour after I finished. Please add a coffee vendor. It may be early, but they will clean up selling coffee to 700 people that have been up since midnight, I promise.
So what did I think of the event? I thought it was great. I really enjoyed myself for the first 3-4 hours, but as the temperatures started to drop and I stubbornly refused to add any wetsuit layers, I began to question why the hell I came. I didn’t question it because the event wasn’t good, but because mentally, I have so much other shit going on right now that suffering and pushing through at obstacle races has taken a backseat. I miss my kids. I miss my wife. I miss my dogs. I kind of miss my cat. I’m also going to really miss my house, which holds a lifetime of memories in 7 short years. This is what I was thinking about at 4:00am. At 8:00am I wasn’t thinking about how I now suddenly wanted to do WTM, but I confirmed that I need to take some time off from endurance OCR. I am tired. I want to have fun. One day I will feel the need to push my limits again, and I will certainly hop back on the pain train, but for now I just want to run a 2 hour race with my wife and get home to my kids after lunch as if we snuck out to brunch and a movie. For long enough, I’ve let OCR define too much of who I am, and all I want to prove right now are that There Are No Strings On Me.
Photo Credit: the author and Tough Mudder
Latest posts by Keith Allen (see all)
- Spartan Race does Long Island- 19th Century Style - December 10, 2018
- Rugged Maniac Long Island 2018 - July 31, 2018
- Altra King MT 1.5 Shoe Review - May 24, 2018