< ![CDATA[For those of you not familiar with the world of extreme endurance obstacle course racing, let me explain this unique event to you. World's Toughest Mudder is a 24h obstacle course race oragnized by (more…)
Toughest Mudder 8 hour night race took place in Germany. They called it „Berlin“, but it was definitely not Berlin. It was the middle of nowhere in former Eastern Germany, around a 2 hour drive south of Berlin.
But this did not stop around 500 brave mudders to make it there and take up the challenge of running 5 mile laps throughout the night. While most of them were newbies to this race, it was already my third one (I completed the Toughest Mudder Midlands twice before), and it served as a training for World’s Toughest Mudder in November.
The Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin Course
The race was held on the Lausitzring raceway. Although the course was not actually on the raceway, parts of it were on paved roads. But the majority was off road, mostly on the fields and only sometimes on trails. Running on the fields made it definitely a challenge not to roll an ankle and get injured, especially in the dark.
The course was pretty flat. There was one short uphill, on short downhill, some stairs, and that was it. Berlin is known for the flattest Marathon and now probably also for the flattest Toughest Mudder ever.
The Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin Obstacles
Because the course was flat and runable, TMHQ (Tough Mudder Head Quarters) had to step up the obstacle game to challenge the participants. Unlike the previous Toughest Mudders the first hour (aka the sprint lap) was not completely obstacle free. They started opening the first obstacles already before the first hour was over. There was even a obstacle consisting of 4 tubes that you had to cross to get from the pit area to the start line.
Also the other ones opened up quite quickly compared to the previous events. And unlike the Toughest Mudder Europe Midlands they stayed open the entire time. Yes, even Electroshock Therapy and Arctic Enema stayed open, definitely waking you up in the middle of the night.
At around 5a.m. TMHQ switched some of the obstacles to their harder versions: Everest to Everest 2.0, Kong to Kong Infinity, Berlin Walls to T-Boned and Arctic Enema got some extra packs of ice.. And at the same time it started raining heavily, which made the grip strength based obstacles even harder to complete.
Speaking with several other participants, we agreed that the absolute nemesis obstacles was Berlin Walls. I usually have no problems at all with 10 feet walls, but this one was a different kind of animal. It seemed way higher that 3 meters, and also thicker and harder to grip than usual. The fact that it was wet and slippery definitely made it even harder.
Europe’s Thoughest Mudder event village and set up
However the parking situation was a bit confusing. Even with premium parking you had to walk for nearly 1 km to get to the race village, with the camping area being nearly next to it. It would have been great for all the Toughest Mudder participants to be allowed to park on the camping grounds. Those of us that did had a way shorter walk back after running for 8 hours.
Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin Results
As the two winners of the previous Europe’s Toughest Mudder Midlands, Tristan Steed and Ulrikke Evensen, were also competing, they were expected to win the race. However, several racers from the USA traveled across the pond, including Allison Tai and recent 215 mile Ultramarathon finisher Trevor Cichosz. Including the other strong competitors from all over Europe we were expecting an interesting race.
The race for the females was decided fairly quickly however. Ulrikke Evensen had to finish after 3 laps due to a tibia injury. Consequently Allsion Tai won the race with 40 miles, followed by Heidi Thieme and Adriane Alovord also with 40 Miles.
On the men’s side Tristan Steed dominated the race, with Christopher von Stelzer and Chris Lemke battling it out for the runner up. In the end, all three of them ran 50 miles, with Tristan Steed in first, Christopher von Stelzer in second and Chris Lemke in third place.
My own performance
Before the event, I set my own personal goal to 6 laps or 30 miles. I hoped it would be a flat and fast course. And I hoped the obstacles would not be too hard, and that the weather would be dry.
At my second lap I came to one of the first open obstacles. A volunteer yelled at me: you are the 6 th female. This was quite surprising, but I did not put a lot of relevance to it. Especially not, since I had to take a longer pit stop after my second lap to treat a nasty blister.
On my third lap however I passed Ulrikke Evensen, who was injured. This also meant that one of the top female competitors was out. And yes, after my fourth lap I was in fifth place, which I then wanted to keep as it meant Elite Contender status for WTM. After my fifth and penultimate lap I took a quick pit stop. Someone told me that the forth female Nadine Wendt was only 5 minutes in front of me, and that I could try and catch her. To my own surprise I found some more energy in my tank and passed her on Arctic Enema. In the end I finished my final lap 3 minutes ahead of her. And as she did not want to go out for another lap, I also did not.
I was really happy with my 4th place finish. I might have gotten another lap, if I had pushed really really hard. But with Berlin Marathon round the corner it was not worth the risk. And hey, 400€ prize money and Contender Status is still the best OCR result I ever achieved.
Overall review of Europe’s Toughest Mudder Berlin
The first Toughest Mudder Event in Germany was definitely a success. This is based on highly subjective opinions of participants I talked to (with around most of them being new to this event format), as well as my own perception as a 4th place finisher.
Overall review: 5 stars.
When I first signed up for World’s Toughest Mudder I was really confused about what to use for this grueling 24h race (you can read about my experience here). As this race is equally about gear as it is about training (you can check out my post about WTM training here), I decided to publish my World’s Toughest Mudder gear list here on my blog and keep it updated regularly. You can also find some great ressources about the World’s Toughest Mudder equipment on the WTM Community Facebook group. Please bear in mind that a lot of the gear also depends on individual preferences.
With England’s Toughest Mudder just a few weeks away it is time to revise my Toughest Mudder gear list based on my experiences from the last two years. I am publishing this here as a reference for newbies to the Toughest Mudder series. This list is different from my World’s Toughest Mudder gear list, which you can find here.
If you have been following my blog for a while you probably know that I love Obstacle Course Racing or OCR. Some people might also call it mud runs. I’ve started doing these runs in 2015 with a short 7km Spartan Sprint and immediately fell in love with it. I since have completed several Spartan Trifectas , Tough Mudders and other races. I love it so much, that I am now even doing Spartan Ultras or the grueling 24h World’s Toughest Mudder. But even if you are not as ambitious as me but only a weekend warrior here are three reasons why you should train for and run an Obstacle Course Race.
I recently ran World’s Toughest Mudder , a 24 hour obstacle race held in the desert just outside Las Vegas, Nevada. While I think I was quite prepared for this one (think training, nutrition, gear and getting lots of information on the World’s Toughest Mudder Facebook group), there were still some valuable lessons I learned, that can be applied to any 24 hour race, not only obstacle races. And yes, there were some things I learned the hard way.
So here are my top 7:
24 hours are an absolute game changer
Before my first 24 hours race I’ve done quite a few of what I consider long races. I did the 8 hour Europe’s Toughest Mudder, the Spartan Ultra Beast that took me 12 hours, and the Bergmarathon, a 35 km alpine trail race, which I finished in just under 10 hours. So I thought I was prepared for going longer than that.
But I was proven wrong. 24 hours is a complete game changer. Whatever you thought worked before, can not work in a 24 hour race. Your body will shut down and react differently than before. The lack of sleep, and the accumulated fatigue will have its effect. The dark and cold of the night will break your will. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Be there early. For EVERYTHING!
This is a lesson I learned several times during this race. No matter if it was the race check-in, the pit load, the community dinner before the race or the brunch afterwards. Being early was always a huge advantage. It meant that you could select better pit spot, being in front at the start, better dinner and brunch tables. (Yes, they did run out of food at the brunch.)
But more importantly it meant more time spending with the people there. You could finally catch up with all the other crazy people that love to do the same crazy stuff. Meeting friends you had not seen in a while, and making new friends. and of course taking lots of selfies with them.
Hypothermia is real.
I really treed to prepare for the cold of the race. For about 1.5 months before the race, I did cold wet wet suit runs to simulate and mimic the conditions of the race. (which in that case meant running in a wet suit and jumping into cold water every 15 minutes). But on race day the cols still hit me very hard. What was different? I was not only cold for an hour, but for several hours in a row. And the longer I was out on course, the slower I got. After 12 hours I was walking most of the time, which meant I could no longer warm up properly. the result: hypothermia and severe tummy cramps.
I had hoped that it would get warmer with dawn when the sun would come up. But it was cloudy and it did not.
Luckily I had brought a backup 5 mm winter surf wet suit, hot beverages in a thermos bottle and self activating heat packs, which saved my 24 hour race. Other friends were less lucky. They had to abandon the race because of hypothermia. Some of these were also the ones that thought they would not need a wet suit in the first place. And also at other races like UTMB I saw friends DNF because of the cold.
So no matter what race you tackle: beware of hypothermia. Even if you think you run warm usually does not mean you will walk warm warm when an injury or exhaustion forces you to drastically slow down. Train in conditions much worse than planned and always have a backup plan.
Nutrition is a nightmare in a 24 hour race
I never had problems with nutrition before. I usually can eat what I want, and I usually want to eat a lot. But at my first 24 hour race my whole nutrition plan stopped working after 12 h. The gels I usually love were just tasting disgustingly sweet, the baby food I ate earlier made me feel sick, as well as the expensive sports drink I had bought. The hot chicken broth left a way too salty aftertaste in my mouth that I could not get rid of. Generally speaking: I had lost my appetite for everything. I had brought so much more food, but did not want to eat anything. Everything my friends at the orphan tenet offered me i declined. My tummy issues were definitely not helping at that point. Luckily I did not have to through up like other athletes, also the elite ones.
But I knew I had to eat and I had to eat a lot to keep going. And it was really, really hard to put food into my body. And this did not get better after the race. I just could not really eat anything until 24 hours after the race. And on my last lap I could already feel the lack of energy I had, so there was no chance I could have done another lap.
So what would I do differently then? I would probably force myself to eat way more as long as I still can. Which also means more carbloading before and bringing more food onto the course in the first 12 hours of the race. And then bring even more food of different types than what I already had. Who knew that that snickers bar would taste so delicious at 4 a.m. in the morning.
Put your name on your shirt or bib
At World’s Toughest Mudder everyone wears bib that are more like a t-shirt, not a piece of paper that you pin on. Which also means that everyone writes their name on the back of the bib. And usually people would not only put their normal name on it, but their nickname. So I want with POLEDANCER. Rea Kolbl, who won the women’s race, had #UNBROKEN on hers. The male winner Ryan Atkins had NOBODY on his (how humble, as one of the race mantras is “nobody is better than your best”. Get it?)
Whatever you decide to put onto the back of your shirt or bib, can be very powerful and make or break your race. Why? Because it will shape you mentally. But more importantly it will be read by other people, on and off the course. People will chat you up, come up and talk with you just because of what is written on your back. You will make friends on the course.
I put POLEDANCER on my bib for exactly that reason. I wanted people to recognize and remember me, and chat to me on course. Because in the dark everybody looked the same in their wet suits and hood, but people would read the back of my bib and talk to me. “Is that sour job?” or “Going strong, poledancer!” were the most common thing. One time it even started a conversation with Team USA “I have so much respect for your profession!” – Me: “It is just a hobby.” – Team USA: “Well, I have so much respect for your hobby. And for all the women that do it professionally. And for Women in general.”
I made some many friends on the course and got so many encouraging messages just because I had my nickname on my bib. This was a real game changer for me, and I will definitely continue doing that in the future.
Buy things and donate them later
I am usually a very environmentally conscious person. I recycle as much as I can and try to be good to the environment. So I brought as much as possible with me to the race, and tried to buy as little as possible. So I also borrowed a tent and a mat from a friend, instead of buying one myself.
But after the race this also meant that I had to clean an pack up the tent and clean the mat. Trust me, this is not want you want to be doing after you’ve just ran over 100 km in a 24 hour race. I also did not want to pack all the gear into my suitcase in an organized way, I just wanted to toss everything in there. But it did not fit, because I brought too much stuff. I also had to carry two heavy suitcases to and from the airport, which as was nightmare.
So in the end I ended up throwing a lot of stuff away. Luckily there was a donation station at the race, where we could donate food, water and gear, so not everything would go to waste. Next time I will do a race like that, I will plan on buying things that I do not absolutely need to bring like a tent, a sleeping bag, chair, air mattress or food and drinks. That extra piece of luggage also cost me a lot of money and consumed CO2, so buying it there and donating it later seems like the much better option.
It’s about the people you meet
Yes I admit it: I probably signed up for my first 24 hour race because I wanted to challenge myself. But over time my motivation changed. I heard of the amazing World’s Toughest Mudder Community and I wanted to be part of it. Even if most of the people there would consider this community the best of all, I heard that communities of other races are equally amazing. Whether it is the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, the Marathon des Sables, the Survival Runs, the Trans Alpine Run, all of these events have a unique spirit and bring the most special crazy people together. So soak up the spirit. Make friends. Help a stranger out.
I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. – Blanche Dubois in Tenesse William’s A Streetcar Named Desire
I met so many amazing people before and during this 24 hour race that I stopped counting. But I know that the friendships that I made will last a lifetime.