Before the Race
I really enjoyed the Toronto Tougher Mudder. It was my first experience with their race and I wasn’t disappointed.
We started the day at 4:30am and left the hotel room by 6am. I thought we would have plenty of time to drive to the ski hill but failed to realize that the parking lot was a 20-minute bus ride away from the hill in the opposite direction of our hotel. That mistake killed 30 minutes of planned preparation and warm-up time.
We parked at the general parking lot. Next time I might spend another $10 and get preferred parking so we’re parked right beside the ski hill. Thankfully general parking was well organized and we entered without problems. We gathered our gear from the truck and headed to a bus that would take us to the event. We reached the event at 7:10am and our race would start at 7:45am. That might seem like a lot of time but the race venue only had one lane of registration open for the Tougher Mudder (the “elite” wave) and that line was backed up by what seemed like fifty people. We entered the venue at 7:35 which gave us 10 minutes to use the bathroom, check our bag and warm up.
Panic seemed to be the best mode to enter from there. We did manage to use the washrooms and make it to bag check (with race directors running around telling us to get to the start line because they were already giving opening speeches) but never had a chance to properly warm up. This would prove disastrous to one of our team members, Shawn, who pulled his groin not long after the first hill. Lesson learned: Spend more time making sure we know the details of our arrival and get there earlier. If you arrive late, it could cost you. I failed to anticipate the parking and transit times and locations and Shawn likely got injured because of it. Plan and plan some more.
With bags checked, bowels offloaded and no warm-up, we jogged to the start line in time to hear the Canadian National anthem and then a quick countdown sent us on our way into what turned out to be an 18km run.
With our plan to stick together throughout the race I wasn’t nervous about how the event would go. We were a team and going to crush it as a team and nobody cared about the result.
The race started straight up a hill and immediately added separation to the crowd. Ryan Atkins (For a story on Canada’s top OCR racer published in 2016: Click here) crushed the field and was long gone right from the start. He eventually won first place with over six minutes to spare.
Because I wasn’t in death race mode I took the time to check out the view. It was a beautiful place and a beautiful view from the top of the mountain. Pictures can’t do justice to what it’s like to be there.
I won’t describe the ups and downs of the mountain terrain. We did make fun of Alec who said, “only one more incline,” about six inclines before the race ended. Something was said about throwing Alec in the back of the truck for the trip home. In fairness, we only ascended the mountain to its full height twice.
If you are headed to a Tough Mudder as a beginner or someone that hasn’t exercised too much, be prepared for a long but scenic race. Have gels and water with you because you’ll probably do a lot of walking. The obstacles aren’t overly tough and penalty laps for failing an obstacle were very easy. You also had thousands of people around you willing to give you a hand. I think that’s what stuck with me the most: the number of people willing to turn around and give you a hand up. Every person turned and did the same for the next person. I loved that about the race. Everyone smiled and chatted and was genuinely nice.
I remember along the race asking myself, “When did society change so much?” You can go to a Tougher Mudder, walk up to anyone during the race for a conversation and they’ll gladly chat with you. They’ll stop what they’re doing to help you if they see you struggling. But in society it’s not like that anymore. People are watching their phones constantly. They are suspicious of what you might be selling them if you try to strike up a conversation. Or if they see someone fall or stumble and get hurt, they continue walking like they didn’t see it happen. I’ve seen and read a lot of interviews with OCR athletes and I finally understood what the athletes meant when they said, “It’s a community like no other. The people are incredible.”
If you want to see that community you can go to any OCR race. Or check out Tough Mudder (and do a Tough Mudder Half if you are unsure of yourself) at www.toughmudder.com
I didn’t think any of the obstacles were overly challenging. Shawn was the only team member to get through the course successfully. I failed the Kong because of the mud on the rings. I didn’t anticipate slipping off but there wasn’t much I could do. The penalty loop cost me about twenty-five seconds so it didn’t matter much.
After 2 hours and 43 minutes of racing we were finally done and finished the race together, just as we had started it.
After the Race
If you ever put together a team of racers, be sure to add a couple that don’t drink beer. We have two on our team and I got a free beer out of it. The race event provides one free post-race beer to all participants in the beer garden and we quickly took advantage of that.
The event provided showers but they weren’t necessary because one of the final obstacles made you swim under barrels in a lake so we were pretty mud-free already. We changed out in the change room, had our drink and left the festival.
The rest is history. The bus ride and drive home with a team lunch en-route was successful and the team recovered well. We had one week of heavy training after that race and head into the Midnight race tonight. This will be our final race before the Soldiers of Fitness Survivor Adventure Program and Dead End Race right after that. Our season wraps up with the Obstacle Course Race World Championships in Blue Mountain, Toronto.