It’s your first Tough Mudder/Mudderella/Warrior Dash/Spartan Race/Why the Hell Did I Sign Up For This Insanity? and you’ve trained for it — by carb-loading on cheese-covered burritos and ensuring you’ve been getting the recommended 10,000 steps on your Fitbit in the weeks prior. You’re pumped and ready to go. But are you really?
Mud race virgins will be scrambling the night before for what may or may not be needed. Similar to gearing up for a weekend getaway (where you pack six shirts, four extras, hell, why not pack everything I own?), you will second-guess every single thing in the bag you’re checking in. And we haven’t even gotten started on your outfit options.
The website of the event in which you’re taking part can be helpful but they don’t tell you everything. That’s what we’re here for. Not the vague stuff that you already know to bring (change of clothes, actual cash, sunscreen, photo I.D., already-signed I-won’t-sue-you-if-the-course-harms-or-kills-me waivers) but the helpful stuff that no one told you about. And for all you who have done one of these races, now you know what to do for next time. You’re welcome.
BE PREPARED TO RUN
You don’t have to be a marathoner — but it certainly helps. Even a 5K will have you primed for the time between obstacles.
FOOD AND WATER
Make sure you have something that will keep you energized but not full. So a power/protein/granola bar, not a pound of wings. And make sure you’re well hydrated prior to the race. The water stations can be quite spaced out. Plus, you’ll sweat it off so you likely won’t have to use one of those muddied-up outdoor facilities more than once.
LEND A HELPING HAND
The people by your side should have your back, and vice versa. We rarely get the opportunity to help others as much as we’d like so whether you’re hoisting a teammate up from the dreaded rope ladder, or balancing on a precarious tire swing with a stranger, know that if you’re helping someone, someone will be around to help you. It’s a great feeling being able to physically and mentally assist another person. You’ll feel strong, empowered and that much more motivated.
It doesn’t dry quickly and you will be wet on several occasions. Be it from mud, water or your blood, sweat and tears. Dri-FIT is your friend.
Dirt will get in your eyes. And for those who wear contacts, this can be awful. So get some cool sports goggles or even just a pair of cheap sunglasses (in case they fly off during an obstacle). Because being blinded for several painful minutes or, worse, losing one or both lenses is so not worth it.
BANDANA OR BUFF
Not only will this protect your hair from getting coated with mud but in case you forgot to read the above point and dirt does get in your eyes, you can rinse off your handy headwear at the nearest water station and clean your face. Secure it with a couple of clips or bobby pins and it won’t budge.
While we’re at it, if you’ve got your long tresses tied back, make sure it’s well-secured and unbreakable. Just for good measure it doesn’t hurt to have an extra one (or three) around your wrist – for you and your pals.
You’re already covered with sunscreen but your lips are almost always forgotten. Not only should some balm with SPF be applied before the race but if you have a tiny pocket, keep it with you.
It doesn’t have to be pretty but if you don’t have pockets and need to have stuff with you (aforementioned lip balm, an inhaler, an extra hair elastic) this could be a lifesaver. As long as you don’t look like The Rock, you’re fine.
Whether you’re wearing bicycle shorts or short shorts with knee-high socks, keep in mind that you will still be climbing and crawling through muck, rocks, sand and grass. So extra protection for your knees (old, worn volleyball pads are ideal) will come in handy. Elbow pads for those really getting down in the trenches are great too.
BATHING SUIT BOTTOMS
You know you’re going to get filthy but the idea of that grime getting in your lady bits is about as unappealing as wearing floral granny panties with white pants. Consider yourselves warned: your best underwear will not cut the mustard. Yes, they don’t give you a wedgie whenever you walk more than 20 feet but a mud race is an entirely different beast. Now, bathing suit bottoms on the other hand? Your lady bits will be as clean as when you arrived. Or at least before you used one of the port-a-potties.
Durable runners are the only way to go so your 10-year-old Keds from the back of your closet won’t cut it. Keep in mind that they’re going to be completely soiled, maybe even unsalvagable, but that’s what detergent is for. That, or you can always donate your shoes after the race.
If you have a GoPro, wear it. There aren’t enough people taking photos and if you want some fun action shots, it’s the best way to get them. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask one of the camera-wielding volunteers to take your pic. That’s what they’re there for — but it’ll likely be a posed group shot, not your team climbing a wall.
YOUR PHONE… IF YOU DARE
If you have a waterproof case that you can secure around your neck, or have the utmost faith in your Otterbox Defender, you can be the paparazzi. And if you’re ready for an upgrade to your phone plan, even better.
And if a helmet cam isn’t your idea of fun, get some of your favourite people who aren’t on your mud race team to dish out the spectator costs and get them to take pics of you and your team huffing and puffing and smiling through the mud. Also, hearing their reassuring words and screams of support are all the motivation for you to soldier on.
AFTER THE RACE
There are parts of you that no hose can access so that’s what wipes and Q-tips are for. You’ll want your feet free from your raunchy runners almost as soon as you’ve crossed the finish line so have your favourite flip-flops ready. And light clothing to change into (like a tank top and baggy shorts, or a sundress) are ideal.
If you’ve got a good group surrounding you to help and encourage you, that’s what matters most. But aside from all that, take it all in and have fun. And maybe, if time permits, schedule a post-celebration with your team, like mani-pedis. Because that dirt gets in there good.