This is it. This was the last "big" race of my season for 2016. Worlds Toughest Mudder was finally upon me and I had no idea just how far my limits were about to be pushed. I met up with a couple new and old friends at the airport, and we all shared a house just outside of Henderson, Nevada. The night before we feasted over many plates of pasta and race strategies. This race started at noon on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday. It was a 5 mile loop with 25 obstacles on the course.
This race took the most prep out of any races I have done in the past. The gear list was never-ending, and people on the airplane were very confused as to why I had a wetsuit and headlamps in my carry-on. Although this was an obstacle race, the greatest hurdle for me this race was the nutrition aspect and knowing what to eat and when. Keep reading if you want to know when the uncontrollable vomiting started..
We arrive and set up our table of food and goodies, extra clothes, headlamps, wetsuits and Vaseline (for getting in and out of your wetsuit). Everything was prepped, my stomach was full and felt ready as I would ever be. Standing next to my friend Adriane Avalord we gave each other a hug and started this crazy journey together. The first 5 mile lap was an "obstacle free" lap so we could see what we were in for. I felt great the first few laps, stopping in the pit area to try to keep my reserves topped off. 3 laps later, the sun was setting and it was time to put my wetsuit on. Being in the desert, the temperatures dropped dramatically, and with so many water obstacles, a wetsuit is the only way you are going to get through the night.
Things were going well, I felt like I found a sustainable pace. My strategy was to stop in the pit each lap, and nibble on some food to maintain my energy level. I was eating things like GU and bread and candy (things I usually never eat. This was my first problem). Around 11:00 PM that night I was about 30 miles into the race. I was halfway through the lap when I started to throw up. I kept running because I knew stopping and complaining about it would not get me to my pit area. I run another 200 yards and throw up again. Then 100 yards later I threw up again. I kept throwing up until I had nothing left to throw up. I was cold, and very confused as to why this was happening.
Stumbling into the pit area I sat down and Nicole Mericle was there to support me and try to assess the situation. But once I sat down I felt like all my stomach muscles cramped up. The only way to describe my stomach pain was having someone stab you in the stomach with a pitchfork. Breathing became painful and I succumbed to the fetal position. After a 20 minutes of crying in this position, my body started to cool down. Being in a wetsuit, I started shaking uncontrollably. Hunter Mcintyre made the decision that my wetsuit needed to come off, before hypothermia set in. If you want to loose your dignity really quick, have 3 men you don't know strip you half naked while you cry out in pain.
I got wrapped in a dry robe, and Nicole stayed with me to make sure the situation didnt get any worse. I spent over an hour and a half trying to warm up and calm my stomach down. It was beyond frustrating. My legs felt great, I wasn't tired, but my body was giving out on me. Miguel Medina was also in our pit area helping out Austin Azar. He was asking me about my nutrition and it dawned on me: I was eating too much, and also eating things my body wasn't used to. I was eating what "everyone else was eating" but that clearly backfired.
Around 2:00 AM Hunter and Miguel told me that I needed to get my wetsuit on and get back out on the course. Are you crazy? I didn't travel and pay money to sit in a tent all night, so I knew that they were right. My dignity was lost again as they squeezed me into a VERY cold wetsuit, and put a headlamp on me. I remember hearing "Just start walking" and that's exactly what I did. I walked the entire lap. It was the coldest, slowest most painful lap of the whole race. I took many penalty laps and thought about giving up, questioning why I even put myself through this.
Around 4:00 AM I see Adriane on the course, and we run for a bit. She was in the top 10 for Women and I couldn't have been more proud of her. It was time to go back in the pit area to fuel up. I was nervous. What if I eat and start throwing up again? I listened to my body and decided to eat what I normally eat, which goes against everything you "should" eat during an endurance race. I ate almonds and peanut butter. But for once, my stomach wasn't in pain and it didn't give me any issues. Normally a fat source wouldn't be eaten during a race like this, but it worked for me.
I saw Adriane on the course again just as the sun was coming up over the horizon. I have never been so grateful to see the sun. We even shared some tears at that moment, never being more grateful to see a sunrise. By around 9:00 AM I knew if I kept going, I could hit my baseline goal of 50 miles. I used everything I had to make it through three more laps. On my second to last lap I remember trying to run up Mt. Everest obstacle, and running directly into the wall so hard I started crying. I wasn't hurt, but my body finally reached its limits. I knew I no matter how much I wanted to get up that wall, I couldn't do it by myself. Finally some more people showed up and used the last bit of energy I had to get up that wall. You know you've maxed out when tears are flowing from out of no where. Any obstacle I did, my arms gave out and was consumed by penalty lap after penalty lap for not being able to complete the obstacles.
I go into the pit and eat peanut butter and mac and cheese (it sounded great at the time) and mentally prep myself for my last lap. There are few parts of the last lap that I remember... But I do remember having this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, although my body was not happy with me. I've had a few emotional finishes and this was one of them. I had some major setbacks in the middle of my race, but overcame them to still get 50 miles in. Knowing I did my best was all I could do.
I can not wait to do this race again this year, but knowing what to eat and when to eat will make the biggest difference for me. I learned that you need to figure out what works for your body, not just eating certain foods because that is what works for your friends. Take the time prior to the race to eat what you are going to eat on race day. My go-to food these days? Pretzels and rice cakes.