2011 WORLD’S TOUGHEST MUDDER REPORT

2011 WORLD’S TOUGHEST MUDDER REPORT

It’s been nearly two weeks since the World’s Toughest Mudder in Englishtown, NJ has ended and I’m finally sitting down to write this. It has actually taken me that long to gather my thoughts about the whole ordeal. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I am so glad to have been a part of it.It’s funny, many of you come to my websites and videos to be inspired and it seems like I’m always saying, “don’t look at me, look at this guy.” Well, this is one of those times. The guy whose name I want you to know today is Jason Gidusko.Leading up to the WTM I ran a small Tough Mudder Training Camp out of our local gym here in eastern Pennsylvania. I had somewhere between 6-12 hardcore members and we trained outside in all sorts of weather and pushed ourselves pretty hard. One guy who joined our camp was Jason. He just showed up one day and introduced himself saying that he lived locally and saw my training video and wanted to jump in. After a few classes he mentioned that he was going to do the World’s Toughest Mudder. I was happy to hear that because he and I were the only people I knew at the time who were entered. It was great to talk strategy and equipment with someone who was about to face the same unknown adversity as I was.Jason is a family man with a beautiful wife and three lovely kids. He’s in his 40′s, works in sales, and is a former Marine. He’s one of those guys who always seems to be smiling. During our training camp we would often run up to 3 miles for a warmup. Jason was almost always the slowest. He would chug along way in the back and I would often drop back and check on him. Sometimes he would be short of breath and sweating. Always sweating. When it came time for our exercises or core work Jason would give it his all. He was not the strongest but definitely not the weakest. Just a hard worker. My kind of guy. Check out this group pic after one of our training sessions, Jason is the sweaty guy with the orange headband.

The Friday before the World’s Toughest Mudder participants were encouraged to set their tents up early so that all that you needed to do on race day was pick up your timing chip and get your ass to the starting line. I drove the hour and a half to Englishtown, NJ and got to the registration booth just after they opened. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out which line I had to get in…
My bib number was #811, the same as my tent space, which put me at the farthest end of the encampment. The camping area seemed to go on forever. I set up my two man tent in the crisp, windy afternoon. After that I ran into Jason and helped him set up his small, one man tent. We then met several members of a WTM closed group that was started on Facebook called the WTFers. It was great putting faces with the names that I had been seeing for months. I soon said my goodbyes and drove back to PA for some last minute preparations.
I spent the rest of that Friday packing and preparing my nutrition for the event. I cooked up some mashed sweet potatoes, tomato soup, brown rice and quinoa. I loaded in about a dozen bananas and some chia seeds and bars from the good people at www.healthwarrior.com who hooked me up with some powerful stuff. I got to bed around 9pm and probably slept for a total of 2 hours. I was too excited. Thankfully the night before I got plenty of rest.

Just in case you aren’t sure what the World’s Toughest Mudder is about and it’s rules I’ll try and give you a quick rundown. This inaugural event is unlike other Mudders because at the end of the race a male and female winner is declared and each is awarded a $10,000 prize. The goal was to complete as many laps around the 8-9 mile course as possible in 24 hours. Outside help of any kind is forbidden and could result in a disqualification. There were a bunch of other necessary rules but they aren’t really important right now.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ve probably heard me mention my friend Ramon. He’s been with me since the first Mudder back in the Spring of 2010 and he bleeds orange like me. A Mudder through and through. Ramon picked me up at my place at around 7am. The plan was for him to drive me to Jersey, hang out until nightfall, and drive back to PA. He then would return on Sunday for the finish of the race. What a pal. For a guy that has 3 kids at home and a wife who works all hours I didn’t take his sacrifice lightly.
We got to the event site at around 8:30am and unloaded all of my gear and food into my tent and set up my flagpole. The picture below shows the colors that flew over Camp Mustache that morning.

Before the race I ran into a bunch of people who recognized me from my training video and it was awesome meeting them all. One guy I finally got to meet was a TMHQ worker named Alex. He used to be the guy on the mic at the earlier Tough Mudders until they got the two new guys. We have exchanged emails several times but we never met face to face. He recognized me as I arrived and gave me a big hug and a nice shout out. I think he’s a natural on the mic and it was perfectly fitting to have him emcee once again. Here he is in all his glory…

I also bumped into Jane and some other TMHQ workers who are always awesome but when I saw them I tried to cut it short because I know how difficult it must be to run an event of this magnitude. The amount of time allotted to BS with me is probably pretty low on their list of priorities.

At 9:30am the medical briefing was given at the starting line and the dire warnings about hypothermia and frostbite started to sink in. For the first lap I decided to go with just a few layers of cold gear compression type clothing. 2 long sleeved cold gear tops and 3 rash guards for my upper body and 2 pairs of cold gear tights and some billabong swim trunks on the bottom. For the first lap at least I opted for my NB Minimus sneaks with no socks instead of my Vibram Five Fingers. No particular reason. The NB drain well and I didn’t want to be running for 24+ hours in a pair of soggy socks and end up with a case of “trench foot”. I have a full body wetsuit that I left in my tent at the pit stop that I planned on putting on after my first lap.

I met up with Jason at the starting line and we were positioned near the middle of the pack of around 900 participants. Normally your starting position at a Mudder is no big deal but for WTM it was, because the first obstacle we hit was…

Insane Bolt - The object was to make a mad dash up the dragstrip and reach the cutoff point before a huge black wall adorned with sirens and barbed wire slid closed and blocked your path causing you to run an extra 1/2 mile. As we shot out of the gate I knew our starting position was working against us. I probably could have really poured it on and made a valiant effort but I noticed Jason was doing a little huffing and puffing so I held back and stayed close to him. By the time we reached the wall it was closing on us and we were detoured the extra half mile. Ah well…

Jesus Walk/Mud Mile - These two obstacles ran right into one another and it was kind of hard to tell them apart. The Jesus Walk might be familiar to you if you’ve done the TriState TM before. A long trench dug to varying depths and full of ice cold water. Besides Electroshock, I get the most laughs out of this one. Since you can’t see the bottom it’s entirely possible for you to be cruising along in ankle deep water only to have your next step drop off into a neck deep mud bath. Hilarious. Check the pic below for a glimpse of the depth discrepancies…

The Mud Mile was also similar to TriState except there were a bunch of 4 foot walls that separated each section of water. Climbing each wall slathered in mud was a little tricky, but not that difficult. After these obstacles I was surprised at how much energy I had spent.

Get Railed - This was a new one. Several rows of parallel bars spanning a small body of water. Many people were using the “triceps dip start position” stiff arms to inch their way across while their feet swung wildly. I was no exception and finished this obstacle without incident. After a few more obstacles came…

Electroshock Therapy - I know, this is usually at the end right? Well for the WTM they had to keep you guessin’. For some reason it seemed to pack more of a punch a month earlier at TriState. Then again, I wasn’t wearing a shirt last month either.

Berlin Walls - These never really present me with much of a problem. Check the short vid below…

Island Hopping - This one was fun. Check out the lone Mudder below…

Unfortunately this obstacle wasn’t nearly this empty. It was really crowded and there was a backup on this one. We had to wait for around 15 minutes in the shade while being cold and wet. This is when the shivers started for me. While waiting I had visions of doing the Roger Moore, 007 thing from “Live and Let Die” across the alligators but I ended up looking like Muddy the Mudskipper, hopping onto one island and flopping onto the next. I came a fraction of an inch from shattering my nose during one of my flops.
It was after this obstacle that the shivers really started to set in so I told Jason that I wanted to stop off in one of the warming tents. The place was packed wall to wall with shivering Mudders in far worse shape than I. Most were huddled around a small heating unit and covered with heat shield blankets. As I grabbed a blanket a medic called out for everyone that is calling it quits to move back against the opposing wall and await a medic pickup. A wave of bodies started to move. I was shocked. More than half of the people in the tent gave up and decided to pack it in for the day. I left the tent to rejoin Jason who opted not to enter the tent and tough it out in the cold.

Funky Monkey - Most Mudders are familiar with this one but this one had a slight variation. It was built up at least three extra feet out of the water and if you were unlucky enough to fall from that great a height you had to swim to the side and go under the bordering 2X8s. Although I am 6-0 at this obstacle I was pretty nervous. With hypothermia creeping up on me I really was in no mood to drop into the cold water. Jason just accepted that he couldn’t make it. He touched the first rung and jumped in the water and swam under the barriers. I took off my neoprene gloves and struggled to dry my hands on some gravel. It wasn’t happenin’ so I decided to just go for it with my wet hands. Check the vid below…

Piece of cake. MustacheMan 7, Funky Monkey 0.

Peg Legs - This was a new one. Not difficult at all but pretty cool. Here’s a pic after the water iced over…

Shake n Bake - Not a new obstacle but different. We did this one in Virginia but here in Jersey it was downright pleasant. First you take a dip in some cold water and then belly crawl under barbed wire through some type of material that sticks to you and gives you a nice coat. In Virginia it was sand but here it was a mulch of some kind. The beauty was that the mulch was retaining the sun’s heat. I still had the shakes and this was a welcome relief. I didn’t want this obstacle to end. Here I am at the exit covering myself with mulch trying to warm myself like a four year old playing in the sand at the Jersey shore.

Log Jammin’ - Not a new one but it seemed longer and trickier than usual. Up and down, over and under a bunch of logs and barbed wire strewn across mud and water.

Funny moment here; sometimes you had to belly crawl under barbed wire wrapped logs and if you were wearing a backpack like Jason was, you had to remove it or you would get hung up on the barbs. Jason stood in front of the log barrier and removed his pack and tossed it on the other side. The pack landed in the mud just a few inches on the other side and slid back under the log wall and returned to Jason like a lost puppy finding it’s home.

Twinkle Toes - Where this is normally a 2X8 balance beam across the water this time they put a WTM spin on it. On top of the normal beam they nailed a smaller 1X1 strip of wood across making the balancing area half the normal size. In no mood to advance my hypothermia I took the pussy way out and did a butt scoot across the beam to avoid the polar plunge. Crazy Jason just jumped right in the water and waded to the other side. Right about here I started to question his sanity.

Trench Warfare - Pretty sure this was born out of the previous obstacle Kinky Tunnels. This is like Kinky Tunnels on crack. A dark, wet crawl underground in near total darkness. I love this one. Below are pics of the entrance and exit…

Hangin’ Tough - New one. Rings hanging across another body of that lovely December Jersey water. As we approached I saw everyone falling like flies. The rings were covered in mud and anyone that tried to hold on with just their hands didn’t make it far. I watched a few guys try to make it by holding the rings in the bend of their elbows and they managed to get further before ultimately falling. Jason just said “fuck it” and jumped in the water and waded across. If you watch the vid below of my attempt you can kind of see the moment where my technique clicks for me and I figure this one out…

Unfortunately this was a penalty obstacle. If you failed this one you had to wait in a penalty area for 5 minutes. Even though I made it, Jason didn’t. I hung out and waited for my pal and then we made our way to…

The Factory - If you did TM Virginia this was the mystery obstacle. Only this time there was no 2X4 ladder structure to climb up or a slick tarp at the exit. You had to climb a rope to get up the back. This was surprisingly difficult. Jason made a valiant attempt but couldn’t make it. I struggled and made it up to the platform and climbed into the dark, tarp covered chute.

The vertical drop down the dark slide gave me pause once again if only for the thought of the cold dip in the water that awaited me down below. Look how happy I look after completing this one…

Unfortunately this was another penalty obstacle so I stuck it out with Jason for the 5 minutes of punishment.


Tired Yet - Nuthin’ special here. Jason taught me a technique where he ran across the edges of the tires instead of stepping into the center of each one. Made this one less tedious. Ramon snapped a nice shot here…



Berlin Walls - …again. Only this time they were much higher. I’m usually pretty good with these, maybe because I loved climbing trees as a kid. Here’s another vid…



Bale Bonds - Hay bale climb. Here’s Jason taking them like a boss…



The Meat Locker - This was cool. A trailer bed filled with hanging tires. If you went through this too aggressively you probably could end up with some nice bruises for souvenirs.

Around here is where hypothermia got a good grip on me. The sun went behind some clouds and I couldn’t stop shaking. I told Jason I wanted to stop in the medic tent to warm up and once again he waited outside. They were offering warm chicken broth which Jason said really helped when he had some but I declined. I left the tent after around ten minutes and Jason made a great point. He avoided the warming tents because you then relied on an outside source for heat instead of generating heat yourself with your own body.

Everest - Unbeknownst to us around 500 Mudders had already dropped out at this point. When we got to this obstacle the course was pretty empty. One thing that helps with this obstacle is the Mudders stationed at top who would reach down and help you up. Here there was nobody. Plus, this was not your typical Everest. Instead of the grippy surface they normally have over most of it the entire transition was slick. We noticed tiny spray nozzles that were mounted at the top coping area that no doubt sprayed some type of liquid making the surface even more impossible to climb. I got a running start and jumped but fell a few inches short. My second try was even worse. Jason also tried once and failed and took the 5 minute penalty. After my second try I decided to take the penalty as well. Here is a great pic of Jason during his attempt…



Massive Turd - By far the most impressive looking TM obstacle ever created. Nearly three stories tall. This is it under construction a day before WTM…

So much fun. Once you climb the 2X4s you had to scale a rope ladder up to the next level. Here’s Jason and I on the approach…

And here is Jason looking like a warrior and me looking like Wilford fucking Brimley

If I was afraid of heights this would have sucked. But I’m not, and it didn’t.

Dong Dangler - The first of the dreaded water obstacles. Big Mudder was very clever putting all of these at the end. Really nice way to break whatever spirit you had left. This obstacle was basically the same as “Just the Tip” at TriState a month earlier except we were going in the opposite direction. I didn’t have much of a problem with it then even with a case of beer strapped on my back as seen at the 1:02sec mark of the video seen here. Even with no beer strapped to my back the fact that this was after I was already spent made this much more difficult. Like usual, Jason took the plunge, swam across, and took the 5 minute penalty. Looking back I probably should have done the same. Nobody near me seemed to be making it across but I tried anyway. Around midpoint I started feeling really weak. I paused and hung for a few seconds before digging deep and pushing through. Encouraging shouts from other Mudders and TM volunteers pumped me up and just barely gave me enough strength to make it to the other side. As I dismounted I released my legs and held onto the bar with both of my hands. I swung my legs down and landed on the slippery mud next to the cement pilings. The slick mud caused my knee to buckle inward and sideways and I heard a pop. I lost my footing and slid down into the cold water. After all that shit I fell in anyways. As I cursed and climbed out of the water the TM volunteer told me not to take a penalty because I had made it across but I ended up taking the time anyway to hang with Jason. Another TM worker saw me limping badly and shivering like hell and kept asking me if I needed a medic. “No”, I kept telling her.


Underwater Tunnels - A short swim under some plastic barrels. The water was a little chilly. When I went under the second row of barrels I got the most painful brain freeze. I’d never experienced that before. I was jealous of Jason’s neoprene hood.


Rope a Dope - If you did TM TriState you probably remember the twisting rope ladder climb out of the water. Well nothing was different here except for the lack of helpful Mudders at the top that gave you that little assist which made all the difference. Both Jason and I made it all the way to the top but were unable to reach up and grab any support that would help us with that extra few inches we needed to get to the upper platform. We both precariously climbed back down and dropped in the water to take our penalty. While waiting I saw nobody complete that one. Eventually they just shut this one down due to the rate of failure and the pure dangerousness.

Walk the Plank - Fucking cold.



Hold Your Wood - A cool WTM spin on this one. Grab a log and walk through the water around a few buoys. Obviously the log wasn’t heavy since all you had to do was push it as it floated across the water’s surface. There was just that little issue of freezing your balls off again.

This was the end of the obstacles. 39 in total. As we headed to the finish/start line I looked inside my head. My injured knee and uncontrollable shakes made me feel weak and the thought of another 20 plus hours of this seemed impossible. Ramon snapped a pic of Jason and I during my moment of defeat and aptly named it my “walk of shame”…

Jason on the other hand still had that smile on his face and was ready to keep going. He said he was going to throw on his wetsuit in the pit area and keep going. After each lap we were required to enter the medical tent for a checkup. When I entered the tent it looked like something from a battlefield. Bodies everywhere and cots full of prone Mudders stripped down and wrapped in layers of insulating plastic to stave off their violent shaking fits of hypothermia. A woman holding a clipboard wanted me to write my initials next to my bib number on a piece of paper. I joked with her as I tried to steady my hand but I just couldn’t make it happen. After scribbling on her paper I turned to leave and limped for the door. She said, “You’re not going back out there in this state are you?”.

“Nope, I’m done.”

After changing into dry clothes in my tent Jason passed by on his second lap. He had put on his wetsuit and said it made a big difference. I was slightly tempted to put on my wetsuit and see how it felt but in the end I don’t think it would have helped much.

Ramon and I drove back to PA that night and planned on returning the next morning to pack up my tent and watch the winner cross the finish line. That night I was thankful to sleep in my warm bed but I was wondering how my friend Jason was doing. Having not heard from him I sent him a text around 10:30pm. I was sure that the sheer temperature drop must have sidelined almost all of the competitors until the morning at least. After not hearing back I went to bed around midnight.

I woke up around 6am and checked muddernation.com for the latest standings. I couldn’t help but shout out loud when I read the update that read “Jason Gidusko – 5th place“! That son of a bitch! I was overwhelmed.

Ramon picked me up and as we drove back to Jersey I texted Jason’s wife Heather to tell her that Jason was in 5th place. She said she was already aware and would meet us up there.

We arrived in time to see the two winners cross the line at the same time. It was an amazing moment to see Junyong Pak and Juliana Sproles declared the winners and given their ceremonial $10,000 checks by the TM founders Will and Guy. While the winners were interviewed you can see my stupid face in the top left of this shot…

There’s one thing that annoyed me here, and I will try to be brief about it… This event was the culmination of nearly two years of Tough Mudder events and the first event of it’s kind in which a Grand Champion was crowned. I would think if you considered yourself a Mudder and you were capable of being there you wouldn’t have missed this for the world. It shames me that I think there were barely 70-100 people there. What happened to the nearly 900 participants the day before who I am sure had every intention of being at the end but were nowhere to be found? I had to limp my decrepit ass to that finish line but I made damn sure I was going to show my respect to those champions.

Around 20 minutes later Ramon spotted Jason steadily making his way to the finish line. “There he is!”. We stood next to his wife and kids and I couldn’t help myself as I limped in front of them and gave Jason a big hug before he crossed the finish line.

AT JUST OVER 24 HOURS JASON HAD COMPLETED 6 LAPS. HE FINISHED 4th PLACE IN MALES AND 5th PLACE OVERALL.

Hero.

In the days that followed the World’s Toughest Mudder there was a bunch of controversy about the manner in which some people took on the obstacles, penalties taken and all other kinds of bullshit. I now choose to ignore it. I’ve also heard some amazing stories about the performances of the top finishers and the way they bounded up and over obstacles like Spiderman and jumped out of the water running like rabbits. You can ignore that as well. What really impresses me is that a regular joe named Jason really took it to these superhumans. He wasn’t bouncing over obstacles like some 90lb freerunner. He merely kept on walking. Just flat out doin’.

I’ve talked to him several times afterwards and he admitted he never got the shakes. He said he wouldn’t allow his mind to go there because he knew that if he did he wouldn’t stop. He also said that he knew he wouldn’t quit. He said while being in the Marines you could never say “ah, I just quit.” That sunk into him. Jason said he ran into some Navy SEALs that were much younger than him that also ran that day and they dropped like almost 800 other people.

Weeks before the WTM I would read tons of posts by Mudders that talked a big game. Chest pounding and bragging about their epic training runs and how they hope it is cold enough on the day of the event. Many swore they would never wear a wetsuit and that the only way they would quit is to be DQed or dragged off by a medic. There was even a group that said they planned on doing the final lap of the 24 hour run in their underwear. I’m sure you can guess that none of this happened. While all this boasting was going on Jason never said a word. The fuckin guy is a do-er, not a talker. Like I said earlier, my kind of guy.

My weakness that weekend was my mind. I know that now. It kind of pisses me off when people bitch about their gear and all which basically means that if they had proper clothing on they would have given the finishers a run for their money. Screw that, just deal with the fact that on that day the finishers were better than you. I make no excuses. I’ve already begun work on my mental state in cold weather conditions and I picked up two books, “The Mind That Changes Itself” and “Becoming the Iceman”. I am determined to redeem myself for my performance next year. I didn’t have this type of drive going into the 2011 WTM. I plan on kicking 2012 in the balls.

I also have a source of inspiration, Jason Gidusko, to help me get ready.

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