Thursday, November 29, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder- Part 2 - Homework / Training

“I’ll do today what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”

So I should probably start by stating that I am of average athletic ability.  Anyone that knew me growing up knows that I played one sport in high school, football. And I might have been slightly above average (at best) on what everyone would have to say was an absolutely horrible team. We sucked really bad. In fact, we were so bad, even our cheerleaders left one of our games at half time.  So for anyone out there that thinks I have some type of ability better than anyone else, you are wrong. Lucky for me, my stubborness was a plus for this event and proper training and doing your homework all but guaranteed a much better than average finish. I should also point out that while we placed 61st and 62nd out of 1300, my brother and I only did five laps. The top two finishers completed 9 laps and 90 miles so our "acheivement" really was nothing compared to the winners when you consider how each additional lap is exponentially more difficult.

My brother and I did a ton of homework on this event. There were several blogs out there from last year's participants and we read pretty much all of them. Some, like the first place woman's finsiher (Amelia Boone) this year, had some real good bits of information (her tip about using Vaseline and Foot powder was probably the most valuable thing I learned through all of my research).  Most of the others simply told us what not to do through their failures. And there were many.

Very simply, last year's participants "died" due to a number of factors:

1. The extreme cold / hypothermia. A ridiculous number of people did the first race and only had a wetsuit on during the last part of the course or none at all. There were a few knuckleheads that tried that this year. One guy dressed up as Spiderman wearing Spidey tights.  He, of course, was in the medical tent half way through lap 1.  Others had wetsuits but no experience in the cold. I remember even reading one blogger talk about how when he got his fingers thawed out that they starting burning in pain so he sprinted back to the medical tent "for treatment".  Umm....every kid in MN experiences that pain almost daily during the Winter months when they come in from playing outside. Deal with it!!!  Even Tough Mudder itself underestimated the cold as they set up a wetsuit tent on the course which implied to a participant that they only needed it on during part of the course. There were even some that were complaining about having to bring a wetsuit at all. Getting the gear right took some homework and testing on our part but was the easiest thing to address and you could do it without spending a crazy amount of money on gear.

There were lots of zombies in the medical tents during the wee hours of the night. These zombies didn't try to eat your brains, they just sat there and stared off in space...

2. Going into their tent between laps to warm up. While it may sound like a good idea and some may have used that strategy with success, most people went into their tents to die. Mentally, only the toughest competitors are going to be able to step out of their tent after getting warm, get hit with 20 degree winds, and then proceed to put on a frozen wetsuit when they are already exhausted and it is 3:00 a.m. The cold on top of the fact that muscles start to tighten up very shortly after stopping a strenuous activity told us we would have to avoid the temptation of taking any breaks outside of quick gear changes and food. Period.

3. Weak feet / legs. A TON of people had issues with their feet. Most had significant pain and swelling in their feet during and/or after the event.  From reading their posts several weeks after the event, it was obvious that almost none of the people that quit due to their feet or legs giving out had actual injuries (some of course did). They just weren't adequately prepared to go a long distance. Toughening up my legs and especially my feet were the top priority.

Training for me in general consisted of Crossfit 4 times a week at 5:15 a.m. On Tuesday and Thursday nights I would normally run a 7.5 mile hilly loop. Sometimes I substituted a few laps up and down the hill at the end of our road, sometimes with a backpack on my back, sometimes with one of my daughters on my back.  Depending on what we did during crossfit that morning, this run could be easy or it could be pretty slow. I just went with the randomness of it all to keep my sanity. Sunday mornings I would do a longer run before church. Up until three months before the race, I kept this run under 13 miles so that I was done in under two hours. There is research out there that suggests your risk of injury skyrockets after two hours and that your muscle can actually start to break down as well.  I am pretty lazy so I used that excuse to take things easy early on.  In the final three months, I ramped up the mileage and started to mix in some much longer hikes and weighted hikes and/or runs. The furthest I ever actually ran was just over 19 miles and by then it was really pretty easy.

I should also mention that I always wear Vibram's five finger shoes at crossfit and I fully transitioned to minimalist running shoes for my other runs after my marathon early this year. This put a huge amount of extra loading on my feet compared to regular shoes but once I worked through the transition, I felt my feet, calves, and legs were solid and unbreakable (although still not as strong as I would like).

Two months out, I did an overnight hike to a neighboring town 17.5 miles away. Somehow I got a friend to join me for the first half.  He really seemed to enjoy himself.  I almost didn't make it home as my legs got extremely tight at around mile 25 and the last 5 miles were especially horrible! It was very apparent to me afterwards that proper nutrition (I ate just peanut M&Ms and water) and mixing up my power walking with running and/or stretching were going to be necessary.  This hike actually scared me because I knew if I felt like I did that night during the actual event it was going to be unbearable once I threw in the cold, a wetsuit, electricity, and all the other nonsense that is Tough Mudder.

After the hike, it was apparent I needed to change the training strategy somewhat. I also had another Goruck Challenge coming up so I needed to start getting some harder miles in.  That is when I started running with 3 bricks in my backpack and hiking with double the load.  It seemed to make a big difference in working my legs and I like the weighted runs so much I plan on getting a weighted vest in the future.  I also participated in a 100 mile challenge where everyone had to put in 100 miles of weighted hiking in the month of October.  All told, I put in about 140 miles in both September and October plus whatever running we do at Crossfit. Nothing impressive to a runner but certainly more than I had ever done in my life, for sure when you consider the extremity of crossfit all by itself.

I also mixed in a couple of wetsuit tests. Living in Arkansas, I didn't have the luxury of cold weather so my opportunities for testing were limited. I do have a swimming pool so my testing consisted of jumping in the pool when it was 34 degrees out and running a mile lap around the neighborhood, then repeating for 13 miles. The two biggest learnings there were that I could very easily control my body temperature through the changing of headgear and by changing my exertion level through walking or running. The other thing was that the testing gave me 100% confidence in my gear. It is a little intimidating jumping into a freezing cold pool in freezing cold temperatures the first time. Once you know your gear (and by the way you realize you can't drown in a thick wetsuit since it is so buoyant), the intimidation is gone. My brother, living in MN, also did some testing so I was able to learn from him as well.

Two weeks before World's Toughest Mudder, I did my final test. The goal was to do 45 miles to see what it would be like. I would do my normal 7.5 mile loop, mixing in two miles of running per lap and walking the rest. At the end of the loop, I would consume my nutrition. I ended up going with the Hammer Nutrition's Perpetuem product. It is geared towards very long endurance activities and is supposed to have the right blend of carbs, salt, protein, etc.  I ended up doing quite a bit of reading up on this stuff and decided I needed something quick, easy, calorie dense, and something I could stomach even when I didn't have the desire to eat at all (a lot of people last year stopped eating and crashed soon after). I did three 7.5 mile loops and then had my youngest daughter join me for the fourth. By then I realized that:

1. My daughter is pretty awesome for joining me.
2. I could do this forever.
3. I am completely bored.
4. The only thing I could gain by going further was a potential injury.

I quit the test at 30 miles with 100% confidence that I had a workable plan that wasn't going to fail me unless my mind failed me.

I look back at the training and a few things come to mind. One is that the crossfit coupled with all of those miles looks ridiculous. I couldn't even imagine doing all of that a couple of years ago.  Two is that it really wasn't that bad and it really isn't a big deal. And three is that I think now that I have learned so much about my body, I wouldn't have had to spend nearly as much time training if I knew those things at the beginning.

All in all, there aren't many things I would change if I could go back in time:
1. I could train smarter and reduce the hours I put in.
2. I would make one small tweak to my gear, which I will talk about later.
3. I would make one significant change to my race strategy (which I will also talk about later).


Friday, November 23, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder- Part 1 - Conversations

Me- "You are walking a lot faster than earlier. Is your foot feeling better?"

Nathan- "That's because my foot has been frozen since lap three. I can't feel it".

Just a sample of the conversation over the course of 24 hours.  One would think that in an event where you spend 24 hours together, a good majority of it walking, that you would have plenty of time to catch up with your brother on everything, to discuss your kids, to discuss your wives, to discuss pretty much everything.

I learned a number of things during the World's Toughest Mudder competition. One of them is that when you are absolutely miserable your conversation is pretty much limited to things like "I am peeing now, that feels so warm!" (said about 50 times at least) or "watch that hole", "watch that branch", "you want to walk now?", "you want to run now?", "you want to get some chicken broth or keep going?".  Or something along the lines of "You have to poop?", "you know a real man poops in his wetsuit".  Pretty basic stuff.

But I suppose the most important thing about our conversations is that one thing we never talked about was quitting. Outside of the final lap, when we were trying to figure out if our current speed was going to be quick enough for a sixth lap, we never mentioned it. We didn't even consider resting as we knew from our research that the tents were where "people went to die" during last year's event.

I am going to write a handful of posts on the event itself. I almost feel obligated to pass on everything I have learned as much of our success is at least in part due to a number of blog posts from last years' participants.  This thing was as much about preparation, strategy, and experience (which we lacked) as it was about athletic ability.  In fact, I would say basic athletic ability is the least important of all four.

So anyway, maybe a post describing the course itself, our training/strategy, and one on the event itself?

Stay tuned for more.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

World's Toughest Mudder 2012- A Quick Thank You!

So we survived. Not only did we survive, but I have to say I feel great! My brother and I completed 5 laps total in just under 24 hours.  After all of the smack talk and lofty (ignorant) goals of so many, we ended up besting the vast majority of competitors as we came in 62nd and 63rd out of 1300 starters. I was 5th place among the competitors over 40 years old. I hate to play the geriatric card but it still feels good.

I am in NC for the Thanksgiving holiday so this post will be short. I have much to share but for now I just wanted to say thank you first and foremost to those of you that made pledges and/or have already made donations to "Debra and Ray's" adoption fund. We ended up with over $300 per lap in pledges and over $1000 in one time donations! How cool is that!!! The timing is perfect as they should be traveling soon. I will be contacting each of you that have made pledges in the coming days but you can send in your money through a number of ways. If you know Debra and Ray's real name and address you can mail them the money directly. Please just let me know when you have done so that I can keep up with everything. If not, you can mail a check to me and I will forward the money to them. My address, since it is all over the internet anyway is:

Loren Marti
531 Candlelight Cir
Springdale, AR 72762

I also want to thank all of you that were there to support us throughout this endeaver / ordeal. Thanks to my sister for coming in from Green Bay to watch us almost the entire time. The photos she took are priceless since as usual the Tough Mudder photographs are a joke, and it was so nice to get real time updates on the standings. It was nice knowing that we were passing people by the hundreds during the last laps. Thanks also to my cousin and his wife for allowing us to stay at their house nearby, for taking tons of video, for relaying results to my sister in the dead of night, and for washing all of our gear and clothes for us afterwards. You guys are awesome! I can't wait to see Brian AND Kelly out on the course sometime soon! Finally, a big thank you to everyone that was cheering us on through Facebook. I was amazed at how many people were there to comment on our updates at all hours of the day. I wish I had the time to respond to all of them but frankly we spent way too much time in the pits between laps as it was. More on that later.

Happy Thanksgiving!

My brother and I going through our favorite obstacle "Electric Eel".


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Old Bridge-20121118-00322.jpg

Well they finished racing around 830 this morning. I couldn't convince them to do another lap. I think they thought twice to do it but ?? They did awesome! 50 miles... Possibly more as I'm not sure how they figure in penalty miles. Their last 2 laps were extremely cold for them and its now just warming up. We saw the #1 guy pass them when I saw found them at 7am this morning and the #2 person (a woman) finished her lap #8 right behind them. They finished up running and of course I had to run to get to the finish line for pictures too. So this girl is pooped out too!!:)
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Saturday, November 17, 2012


Well this is another update. Loren and Nathan finished 3 laps now and seemed in good condition yet. Mostly a little cold here and there so they run more if that happens. I was surprised they could do mt Everest yet on lap 3 on try 1 when others couldn't after many. I left after lap 3 but they were planning to do more after a short break. They moved up 200 spots or so between lap 2 and 3 so r hoping to move up more as the night goes on. Maybe 5 or 6 laps they guessed?? I'll go out at 6am again if they are still going
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Mudder progress

This is cheryl writing for loren while watching the guys race. They are more than half way of lap 3 so far and they say they r feeling pretty good yet. They seem to be to me too. Theu r walking mostly and they do most obstacles pretty well but some they slack off on now... Ha ha its easy for me to say that:). What they didn't tell me is how many miles I'd put on too!! Apparently they were 777th after 2 laps but think they'll move up after this lap as many went in tents after lap 2. Gotta run again. C them coming.
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Lap two complete

Running about 3 1/2 hours per lap. No issues. Getting cold now but gear is doing its job. A few people limping, a handful went home.

Sent from my iPhone

Lap one complete

No problem. Starting lap two now.

Sent from my iPhone

Ready to go

Two hours before the start. Still just below freezing but should hit 50 today. Lots of crazy people here. Gonna be a fun course.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Raceway Park Here We Come

This will be short since I am typing this on my phone.

I am all packed up and on my way to New Jersey. Tomorrow (Friday) we register and set up our tents. The race starts at 10:00 a.m. Eastern on Saturday.

If anyone has any last minute donations or pledges, please get them in. Thanks to some awesome family and friends we are over $1000 in one time donations and over $200 per lap in pledges!

I am ready. Tapering over the last couple of weeks has been strange as it makes me feel lazy. For the first time in ages, I am not stiff and sore at least somewhere which also is a strange but nice feeling. My energy level right now is extremely high and I can't wait to get out there to see what this old Marine can do.

Cammie and the girls made a real nice going away card for me. Cammie is of course worried about me and Vika is as well. It is hard to explain to her (or anyone for that matter) why I am doing this. The fact is if I have to explain, you wouldn't understand so there isn't a point in trying.

Our plan is to go slow and steady. Running burns much more energy per mile than walking so the logical strategy in our minds is to walk. We believe we have the gear to stay warm without having to run and we have put in plenty of gear tests to feel confident in that. We also have a nutrition plan. If we survive the full race we expect to burn somewhere around 8000 calories. I have tested my nutrition plan as well and it is amazing how much easier 30 miles is with proper nutrition versus 30 miles on peanut m&ms and water.

I will have my phone in my tent and will update both Facebook and our blog after every lap if possible. Possible, meaning I have the time and my fingers aren't too cold to type. I will also try to figure out which company is doing the chip timing to see if the results are going to be posted live. If so, I will share that info when I get it. Other updates will be available at

I guess that is all for now. This is going to be awesome!