When I was on my careercation, my friend, Joe Heitzeberg, knew I liked to do races (1/2 marathons, marathons, and Olympic distance triathlons), and hit me up to sign up for the Seattle Tough Mudder. I believe I was in Sydney at the time and shrugged, “why not?” I thought it would be a good goal to train for and to get back in shape after six-months of traveling.
Unfortunately, I got really sick on my trip and then just let myself go eating yummy food and not exercising. But when I saw the videos for Tough Mudder – I was shocked (knowing that I would be literally shocked)! I knew I had to get my butt in gear. I didn’t know what a burpee was and those monkey bars that kids fly by…I felt like my shoulder was going to get wrenched out! Not to mention the even more challenging rings.
I trained with Joe, Kevin Nakao, Chris Lynch, Matt Shobe, Chrisann, Charla, Will and others for a solid two months. At the beginning, I could do about six pull-ups, and near the end, I could do about 18 pull-ups. For a traditional runner, it was great to get that cross-fit type of training. We must have been quite a sight doing burpees, climbing over rocks, carrying logs over our heads, doing crab walks, doing bear crawls, ducking under chains, etc.
I also learned a lot about the equipment which I wanted to share. I’m not sure how vital equipment is for the Warrior Dash or Spartan Race since I haven’t done either of them, but I do know it was critical to having a good time for me for Tough Mudder.
The following is my recommended guide for Tough Mudder gear and equipment. Please note that I have a bias towards value, which means that I will rarely buy the best gear unless I know I’m going to commit to that sport. I actually spent a lot of time researching what others recommended for Tough Mudder equipment and the following is what I bought and my conclusion about each purchase. BTW, I often get paralyzed by too much research…so here’s a tip, have some wine or a few beers, and those decisions come fast and furious! Let’s start with the feet and work our way up.
Shoes– As a triathlete and runner, I’m just used to light, comfy shoes. But when we were practicing scaling walls, I knew I needed something with more bite or grip. In addition, it is even more vital in the muddy terrain that is quite slippery. I ended up buying these Montrail Men’s Sabino Trail Running Shoe. They were definitely heavier but much sturdier and grippier than my traditional running shoes. They were on the lower end of the price range. I paid $76.63 for them on Amazon (which is where I bought most, if not all of my gear). At the end of the day, I was quite happy with this purchase. I still need to get more rocks out of them after the Tough Mudder race because I was not going to throw these away. I know many advocate to throw away your shoes which is a good idea if they’re old, but then the trade-off is minimal grip. I was willing to have grippier shoes and clean them afterwards.
Socks– one thing to keep in mind that it’s trail running terrain which I’m used to for triathlons, but not traditional running. So it’s a good idea to train for that. I usually run in short socks, but for this race, I decided at the last minute to wear socks that went up to my calves. In hindsight, I was pleased with that decision because it *minimized* rocks into my socks because you will get them. But I think it would have been much worse and more uncomfortable had I worn short running socks. This isn’t the exact sock I bought, but it is similar. I did throw away my socks because they just weren’t valuable enough for me to clean. Plus white turned to black with mud and grime even after rinsing off.
Knee Pads– this was an oft-debated topic in our Tough Mudder group, and I did a lot of research on this. I decided to get ASICS Jr. Ace Low Profile Knee Pad, Black for $19.70 instead of sleeves. This ended up being one of the most crucial and top buys of all my gear. I will not race another Tough Mudder without them. It made a lot of the crawling so easy because I had so much cushion on my knees. I didn’t get a lot of rocks in them, and they didn’t really both me. Plus the occasion bang on the wall or rock or tree or mud or someone’s head didn’t both me at all Note, I ordered a smaller junior size because I wanted them to be snug. It turned out great, and I didn’t have any circulation issues. You can also slip them down to your ankles when you’re running which I did in training but didn’t even bother to during the race. I think this piece of equipment is a game changer. Don’t race Tough Mudder without it IMHO!
Compression Shorts– in my mind there are two main reasons to get these. One, because they are snug, they keep the grit, rocks, and mud out of your privates. I don’t know about you…but I’m wiling to pay a premium for that Two, many people end up getting rips in their pants when they only wear one layer since you’ll definitely be sliding on your butt. We had a girl on our team, who will remain nameless…plus I saw a guy make it up the Everest flash the world his left butt cheek!
I ended up paying $14.04 for these Champion Men’s Compression 6 Inch Inseam Short,Black,Medium. My waist for jeans vary around a 31″ – 33″ waste. These fit perfectly for me, and I wore them underneath my running shorts.
Running Shorts– As I mentioned earlier, I’m a traditional runner that has morphed over time to more cross training which I think is more interesting and better for overall fitness. So I have an array of running shorts that I’ve bought from Amazon and REI. But here’s a typical pair that is comfortable and breathable. BTW, I didn’t mention this earlier, but everything you wear should wick and be synthetic. You get wet and want it to dry out quickly to minimize chafing. I didn’t buy this exact pair, but this is similar to one I wore. It’s $20.24 Asics Men’s Core Short.
Race Belt– they say that a lot of participants don’t finish Tough Mudder. Around mile 8 or so, I started seeing a lot of people experiencing cramps especially around Mud Mountain. For all my races, I wear an iFitness race or fuel belt. I bought mine a few years
ago at a race packet pickup booth for about $20. On their website, it is $23.95. **Note: (I think iFitness got bought out or something because this link is now broken. So I replaced it with the closest fuel belt that I would use). I carried a few Gu’s in there and also salt-like tablets to combat cramps which I’m susceptible to. I wrapped my tablets in a ziplock bag. But after awhile I had a wardrobe malfunction because there was so much mud, I couldn’t fully close my race belt. But my tablets were still in there. So I was swallowing mud as I fished out my salt tablets with my grimy gloves. Who knows? Maybe that’s another way of staving off cramps. I also use my race belt to hold my goggles and visors (if I don’t need it). More on that later. Luck does favor the prepared.
Technical Shirt– our team had a local company, called EveryMove, donate shirts to us which was really kind of them. They were bright orange and short-sleeved. It was great because we could easily see our team members since we had about 20 people on our team. Even tough it was overcast and quite cool at the start of the race, I would err on going with short sleeves because you will warm up quickly. Trust me on that one. So luckily the cost was $0 for us.
Watch– For all my races, I always wear my tank of a watch. It’s my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver With Heart Rate Monitor. I got a little worried about it when I couldn’t even see the face of it since it was coated in mud. And I couldn’t wipe it clean because my gloves were also coated in mud. Since Tough Mudder is a time-based race, it’s difficult knowing your time unless someone carries a watch. My watch survived, and I would wear it again because it’s built like a tank. It comes with a heart rate monitor which I usually wear too, but I skipped wearing it because I didn’t want mud to get caught up in it and grind against my chest.
Gloves– this was also hotly debated on our team. Should we wear them? If so, what type? Should we cut the finger tips off of them? I ended up buying these Mad Grip Pro Palm Glove 100,Green/Green,Small/Medium for $16.48. I also ended up NOT cutting the finger tips off. I think this is very good buy and piece of equipment. We have blackberries bushed galore in Washington state and by mile 2, I grabbed a handful of thorns that pierced through the gloves. I had to tweezer out thorns after the race, but I know it would have been much worse. It’s also useful for climbing walls, carrying wood, etc.
One thing that I thought it would be useful for, but it wasn’t was the monkey bars and rings. I ended up taking them off since in training, I had a better grip. I made it through the bars but not the rings. I would definitely take this same approach. It was also difficult to take them on and off because there was so much mud. So if you decide to race with them, be prepared to keep them on because if you take them off and put them back on, you’ll just end up stuffing more crud into your fingertips.
Visor– I always wear a visor to keep the sun out of my eyes since I don’t race with sunglasses. It also keeps the sweat from stinging my eyes. I’m glad I had it during Tough Mudder. And for obstacles like the monkey bars and rings where there’s a risk of water, I
would just take it off and hook it onto my race belt. For the jump into the water, I either hooked it onto the belt again or just carried it my hand. I got my from REI for about $20.00, and it has lasted me years. Note how muddy it got after the race in the previous picture. And I can’t seem to wash out the brown now 😉
Goggles– I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the race because of my hard contact lens. I didn’t want it to pop out mid-race, and then I’d be hosed. So I hooked these $25 Aqua Sphere Kayenne Goggle onto my race belt and thought that I could use them for the crawling through tubes or water obstacles. But at the end, I didn’t end up needing them at all which wasn’t too bad since they weren’t heavy nor in my way. Next time, I’ll be leaving these puppies at home though.
So that’s my recommended equipment and gear buying guide for Tough Mudder. Like I said, I don’t know about Warrior Dash or Spartan races, but I’m sure some of the lessons learned would be applicable. I’ll attempt to do another post on my experience and the obstacles later. But one note I will leave with you is that after every other type of race, I would feel a sense of accomplishment when completed. After Tough Mudder, I was hugging my teammates and thinking how FUN it was. That was a big difference to me. I’ll definitely still do other races, but I think I’m hooked on Tough Mudder now too!
My new Tough Mudder “FAQ” Frequently Asked Questions is up now. If you like these, please comment and share.
PS: I love getting updates from people who’ve read this and then shared their experience as I constantly update the best Tough Mudder gear list. Here’s one of my favorites to share:
I ran last Saturday…10 miles, 24 obstacles. So relative to your gear list; dude, you were spot on! Hat to protect my bald head from Electro-Shock Therapy; compression knee-high socks (no rocks, and not stopping to empty shoes like I saw dozens of others doing); runners pouch – did that had to fruit roll-ups and 3 Gu with me. Salt – wish I had that, started cramping at mile 9, but mad it. Found a little stainless steel tube at REI for the salt tabs, then forgot those. Knee pads – Asics got those, they were a life saver. Shoes – I went high end with Solomons and they worked beautifully. Compression shirt was all I wore up top an 80-degree day, no clouds, and no humidity. I taped both of my ankles used a Bosu for strengthening them. For the next one, I know I need more upper body strength so I will work on that. My endurance was good a week prior I put in an 8-miler so I was ready there. Dude, you spot on the equipment! Thanks so much!”