How Strong Is Your Pit Crew?
I don’t know if you’ve heard the news or not, but I am now a 3x World’s Toughest Mudder Finisher! In November of 2018 I once again completed this 24 hour obstacle race with my girlfriend, Jess Chadd, by my side as my pit crew. This course is set up as a 5 mile loop with 26 obstacle on the course. Competitors of this race are to repeat the 5 mile loop as many times as they can in 24 hours. There were 1570 competitors who started this race, and only 735 total finishers (46% finisher rate). I finished in 394th place with a total of 40 miles. This grueling 24 hour challenge taught me a huge life lesson.
It’s around 2:00 AM on November 11th at World’s Toughest Mudder. I’ve already completed the course several times at this point, and I’ve just decided to take the penalty lap at the stacks. The stacks, a new obstacle this year, basically consists of climbing up a cargo net that’s draped over the top of four shipping containers that are stacked one on top of the other 40 feet high. You climb up the top of the cargo net, walk across the top of the shipping containers, then take a 40 foot jump into some deep water. Most competitors are going to take the same path that I did, bypass the obstacle and go straight to the penalty loop. Partly because when you first walk up to this thing and gaze up to the top, your first response is, “Screw that!” Most of the reason for the bypass is because of strategy. It takes a lot of energy to climb up that 40 foot cargo net and the penalty loop is just a short little jog.
Another part of the strategy comes with the cold. It’s below freezing outside. It’s been below freezing for a couple hours now, so it’s really cold. Taking a jump into some cold water that you don’t have to take doesn’t really make a lot of sense.
So I’m going through the penalty lap, and something starts to happen to me that’s never happened to me before in one of these races. As I’m walking I’m starting to feel like I’m falling asleep. Which doesn’t make any sense. I know this is a 24 hour race, but I can’t be sleepy. I just ran up a ramp in the last obstacle. I’m finding myself struggling to keep my eyes open. I’m trying to jump around, wake myself up. I’m still about three miles away from tent city, and after looking around I also realize that I’m all by myself. Just yesterday morning I was surrounded by 1500 other competitors at the start line, but now the course is like a ghost town.
I’m freezing. My fingers and toes are going numb. All I can see is the light from my own headlamp, and the fog from my breath. I’m cold and alone with only my own thoughts to keep me company. Normally, that would be a really good thing. I’m a pretty positive, upbeat guy. Unfortunately, right now the only thoughts in my head I can hear are, “What the hell am I doing here? Why in the world did I think this was going to be fun? How much more of this can I take? Do I want to take anymore of this?”
I keep going, one foot in front of the other, and I make it back to Jess who’s waiting for me in tent city. I’m sure she can tell just by my body language that I’m feeling defeated right now. She has some warm chicken broth for me and she asks me how I’m doing. I told her I was starting to fall asleep out there. Right away she looks at me, and she realizes, “no you’re not falling asleep, you’re hypothermic, you’re trying to pass out.” We go back to the tent, and she does the best she can to warm me up. I drink hot coffee, as she pours hot water on my hands and feet, and puts a blanket over my shoulders.
Jess did awesome as my pit crew. I prepared her going into it and told her everything she needed to do for me during the race. She would need to help me organize my gear, and help me figure out when I need to change in and out of gear. Help keep me fueled between laps. Help make sure I drink water so I stay hydrated and keep from cramping up during the race. I also told her there may be a time, maybe around 2:00 AM, where my spirits may be really down and I may want to quit. It’ll be up to her to bring me out of it. I told her about the possibility of my spirit breaking in the night, weeks before the race. I didn’t think it was true though. I just figured, I’ve done this race twice now. I’m a two-time World’s Toughest Mudder already. I know what this takes. This is 12 hours physical strength, then 12 hours mental strength. This is just about how much can you take and keep going. There’s nothing that this course is going to throw at me that I can’t take. I believed that with all of my heart. Knowing that made this moment so much harder.
The cold that Mother Nature threw us was a game changer. It was over 10 hours of below freezing temperatures. There was frost on the ground, there was frost on the tents. There was frost on everything in sight. There was hardly any headlamps on the course anymore because so many people had dropped out of the race at this point. They actually closed down five obstacles because they were covered in sheets of ice. At this point I was past the point of wanting to quit and I just felt broken. I felt like there was just nothing left for me to give. I felt like a failure. I felt defeated. I was in a dark place.
I know Jess has never seen me in that place before. It’s probably a safe bet to say no one’s ever seen me in that place before. It was pretty bad. Even though she’s never seen me at that point before she came ready. She enlisted an army of my clients, my friends, my family, for this very moment. She had them write letters for me so I could open them when I needed encouragement. The notes were full of reminders about how inspiring they think I am, what I’m made of, what I’m capable of, and that they believe in me. There was even a note from our dog Walter who was sad he couldn’t be there, but was rooting for me at home. She had updated posts on Facebook, and every time someone made a comment she relayed those inspiring words to me. Those words were like spinach to me, and they gave me energy. I was still really struggling, but that gave me enough energy to help push me through and get back on the course.
Not only was I able to get back on the course, but I completed two more laps after that point. I was able to make it to 40 miles, which was my goal. 40 miles at 40 years old. I know I would not have made it to my goal if Jess had not helped me through that tough time during the race. It taught me a valuable lesson. I do these obstacle races because I feel like they make me stronger as a person. After I go through these obstacles and take on these challenging courses, it translates over to my life. Then whenever I face challenges and obstacles in life I feel like I’m able to handle them better. We all face obstacles all the time. When we come up against an obstacle we have two choices, either we can overcome the obstacle or the obstacle can overcome us. The lesson I learned from this race was that the bigger the obstacle or the challenge we face, the more important it is that we have a strong pit crew. Jess can’t take the pain away for me. She can’t go through the course for me, but she can be there with me and ease my suffering. She can push me through that struggle to help me get to my best so I can reach my goals.
Ask yourself who your pit crew is. How strong is your pit crew? When you face obstacles in life are they enabling you to take the easy way out and quit, or are they pushing you through your struggle so you can reach your goals?
I wore a Go Pro camera during my 3rd lap of World’s Toughest Mudder 2018. Click the link to see the course up close!
World’s Toughest Mudder 2018