Today eight of us completed the first Tough Mudder. Tons of fun. It was a 7-mile race on the side of ski slope, interspersed with various challenges, like wading waist-deep through mud, army crawls under wire, and climbing over some walls. I can see how this type of fitness events will continue to spread. A few observations.
VFFs / Barefoot running
- Lots of VFFs (Vibram Five Fingers), including 7 of 8 on our team.
- I ditched my VFFs for 3 miles of the race. Had to slow down a bit to avoid rocks, but my concentration level went up. I felt less likely to twist an ankle. You see guys with these big plodding shoes — they aren’t forced to focus on where they’re stepping, and then when they land wrong, boom, they turn their ankle. The foot can’t adapt dynamically because it’s locked up in the shoe.
- Your shoes get soaking wet at various points in the race, and your feet dry more quickly barefoot (and you’re less likely to get a blister).
- That said, there were parts of the race where a normal running shoe would have been superior, due to the difficult terrain. The most difficult parts for VFFs were man-made large-size gravel roads.
- You can’t be a specialist. The steep uphills kill the road runners and the treadmill aficionados. People who had no upper body strength or co-ordination couldn’t get over the walls. One of our team members is not a good swimmer, so the water obstacles were a major challenge to him (but he kicked ass).
- If anything, Tough Mudder could make the obstacles longer and harder. The hardest parts were the uphill climbs at the beginning, which wiped you out for the rest.
- There was refreshing emphasis on teamwork and camaraderie. I could eventually see these events timed as a team, and including challenges that require all teammates to be present to complete.
- Way too much carb-age. Everybody was scarfing down bagels and beer right after finishing.
- I just don’t believe that optimal endurance performance necessitates carbo-loading or heavy and consistent carb intake during the race. If that’s what your body is accustomed to, then yes, you better do it. But from an evolutionary perspective, that’s a dangerous dependency, and in tough times, humans who could perform optimally (i.e., survive) would live to bring home the bacon.
- See De Vany on "Lard as a performance fuel" (gated).
- The NYT had a great write-up on how Tough Mudder got started, and how they attracted over 4,500(!) participants for their first race. The business plan was a semi-finalist in a Harvard Business School competition — penalized since the judges thought they wouldn’t be able to attract 500 participants. Well, they were only off by an order of magnitude.
- Congratulations to Will Dean, Guy Livingstone, and the whole team at Tough Mudder for building a business that will benefit others by making fitness more functional and more fun. (Not to mention the $150k+ that they raised for the Wounded Warrior Project.)
Hats off, guys.