When it comes to clothing and how to outfit yourself for first Tough Mudder, you could spend countless hours watching YouTube videos and reading many varied opinions on what works and what doesn’t. I know, I was one of those fools scouring the Internet looking for feasible possibility prior to “race day.” We all know that Tough Mudder is a challenge rather than a race. So just what should you bring? I don’t believe there is one answer that is right or wrong when it comes to how you prep yourself for Tough Mudder. I will however pass on my advice and what I wore for the event and what changes I would consider for my next run at my second orange headband.
For me he most important decision I had to make was what to wear for shoes. Many varying opinions when it comes to footwear. Some swear by Vibram Five Fingers, while others will tell you not to wear anything you don’t want to keep as your shoes will be wasted by the time you cross the finish line. On our 15 person team we saw a wide array of shoes, most were running type shoes, some new, some old. For many it seemed they did not go out and buy a new pair of running or trail shoes just for Tough Mudder. I might be an exception, I did. But these shoes were also going to be used for future trail running as well. Would they hold up and be usable?
This is where the Internet came through and I was very pleased with some of the reviews I saw about the Salomon Speedcross 3. I purchased mine from Roadrunner Sports (with my MVP discount) a few months prior to Tough Mudder 2013 – Lake Tahoe in order to break them in, see how they fit and felt while running on local trails. I had a very difficult time finding this shoe in a number of stores, including Roadrunner Sports, REI and Any Mountain, locally in Northern California. Thankfully both REI and Roadrunner Sports sold the shoe online, as well as various outlets on Amazon.com.
The best price I received (with free shipping and a 20% discount) was through Roadrunner Sports. What made this deal even sweeter was I had 90 days to run in the shoe and if I didn’t like them I could return them for a full refund or exchange them for another pair of shoes. Initially I ordered a size 11, without having the ability to try the shoe on before purchasing. I made one 5 mile run on trails and realized they were too tight and returned them for a size 11.5. It was a wise choice and 3 days later I had my new Salomon Speedcross 3 on my feet ready to run again.
While not a light shoe they are put together to deal with rugged terrain, which is what Tough Mudder features. It has a very solid lower with a protective guard around the base of the shoe. The upper is lightweight and breathable with abrasion resistant material, which helps dry the shoe and feel your foot comfortable. Inside the shoe is a removable Ortholite sock liner that combines Ortholite foam and an EVA heel cup (providing cushioning and stability). This allowed the shoe to breath, making it cooler, drier and better cushioned given the rough terrain.
The top of the shoe was also lined with an anti-debris mesh, which helped to keep foreign debris out of your shoe. The Speedcross 3 also used a quicklace system with one-pull tightening for easy-on and easy off. In order to protect the lace system there is a small lace pocket on the top of the shoe tongue. The tread is very aggressive, which wrapped up onto the toe. I was more worried about getting through the deep, thick mud, but also having the the stability to get up and down the rock slopes of Mt. Pluto. The shoes also worked very well on the soft, fine sand that seemed to line nearly every trail that was thrown at us.
Through out the day, I put the shoes through the grueling Tough Mudder course and they never failed. At no point during the challenge did I find questioning my shoe selection. In the water, through the mud and on the rocks and sand these shoes allowed me to do it all. After water obstacles, the shoes drained quickly and dried within the hour. I only needed to take each shoe off once to remove debris from the shoe. Best of all, I didn’t donate or throw these shoes away when I returned home. I hosed them off and when they dried I wiped them down and they are as good as new!
If you are into trail running or have an extra $125 to throw at a pair of shoes for Tough Mudder, I highly recommend these kicks. I saw many competitors wearing different versions of the Speedcross as I made way through the obstacles.
Clothing much like shoes is a personal choice. One of the features of Tough Mudder is being unique in your appearance. At Lake Tahoe it was as minimal as a pair of skimpy shorts to full blown military fatigues and everything in between. Outside of the costumes that some runners opted for shorts and shirt were the standard garb for the event.
In the months leading up to the event I read and read, but really never got an answer that I was satisfied with. When I finally found a pair of mountain bike shorts there were 2 problems. First, they were $80 and second they didn’t have my size. I figured I didn’t need them. As I continued to look I wanted two things in shorts I settled on. First pockets with zippers. This is prevent gobs of mud from collecting inside your shorts. Second fabric that would wick away moisture.
I purchased a black, 5 pocket, 7″ short from Roadrunner Sports and included an inner brief liner and drawstring. I wanted to find a pair that included compression shorts, but I opted for a separate pair to allow me an additional layer, just in case I tore my shorts. I had a few options when it came to a shirt. I figured it was going to be warm, which it was. At start time the temperature was already approaching 70 degrees, but wanted to protect my shoulders from direct sun. Instead of a singlet or sleeveless I decided on standard short sleeve shirt in firecracker orange to go along with the Tough Mudder color scheme.
What I found myself doing through most of the challenge was removing my shirt after each obstacle and running without. When I got to the obstacle I put my shirt back on and attempted the obstacle. This worked well and the shirt remained quite dry after finding the drink as we navigated the mountain. One word of warning, beware of nipple chaffing. It’s uncomfortable and sore. At home I have the habit running without a shirt and didn’t think anything about chaffing until the event ended my nipples were raw! If you are concerned, you might have a look at your options.
The next item of business while outfitting yourself you need to answer; Gloves or no gloves? There are two sides to every coin and this topic seemed to draw much debate in my research. I decided to look for a pair of Mad Grip Pro Palm Knuckler Glove 100, which Home Depot claimed to carry. Unfortunately after 3 different stops I gave up and purchased Grease Monkey Max Fit Gorilla Grip Glove for $4.97. They weren’t exactly what I wanted but I had run out of time and failed to find the Mad Grips in stock.
I do believe gloves are good for Tough Mudder. If not just to avoid the hazards of piercing your skin or drawing blood. Early on, I guess it kept my hands warm but that warmth was quick extinguished when we hit Arctic Enema within the first mile of the course. When it came to obstacles like Just the Tip (wood) and Funky Monkey (metal) I felt I had a better grip than if I did not wear them. One point of contention was the fact my glove started to slip off, as well as another teammates just prior to getting across Funky Monkey. There were many Mudders who were successful without gloves and equally as many with and without gloves ending up in the water. I would still recommend gloves just to give your hands and fingers an added layer of protection.
With aid stations scattered over the course, I debated about humping my 70 oz. Camelbak around, but teammates talked me out of it on Facebook. Never did I feel dehydrated on the course. When I was getting to the point needing a drink we seemed to come across an aid station offering a selection of water and bananas or water and Clif Bars and Clif Shot Bloks. It would have been nice to have some additional energy items at different points on the course. The same could be said with water, if not for me then my teammates. I am sure some of them could have used some hydration to help them to the next obstacle or aid station. I could see employing the Camelbak for the next Tough Mudder. Be forewarned, it could interfere with some obstacles, which will require you to remove it or wear it on your chest.
I was surprised however at the number of Tough Mudders wearing sunglasses, carrying a GoPro or mobile device while running. The GoPro is built for such an event as Tough Mudder. In fact we had our team leader wearing on his head the entire course. After the fact it’s pretty damn cool to see some of the obstacles that challenged us. LifeProof makes a line of water-proof, snow-proof, dust-proof and shock-proof cases for an iPhone. This allowed for some pretty breathing team photos while running the course. I would recommend with camera (if you want to carry it) in order to help preserve your experience. There were many photographers on the course, but as of this writing, I have not seem the majority of the photos, which are searchable by last name and bib number.
Your bib, which can end up being a memento or souvenir of your first or most current Mudder. I pinned mine to my chest with 4 safety pins provided by the volunteers at registration. I proceeded to lose my bib on obstacle #2, Glory Blades, when I pulled myself over the top and slide down on my stomach. I saw it come off, but decided (for some stupid reason) to leave it behind. Next time I will attach it to my shorts or the back of my shirt in order not to lose it. All was not lost as volunteers also write your number on your body a few times, including the arms, legs and head.
I skipped wearing any sort of arm or calf sleeves, as I didn’t feel I would benefit from it. I had consider it however. There are obstacles such as Kiss of Mud #1 & #2, Electric Eel and Trench Warfare the arm sleeves could come in handy for to prevent some scraps and scratches. Then again, you couldn’t show off your battle scars. If you are prone to cramping or possibly shin splints, then the calf compression sleeves might be worth it.
In the end there are no fast and hard rules when it comes to what to wear. I still believe a good pair of shoes is are a necessity. It’s not a fashion show, but I don’t believe you need to throw your clothes away or donate your shoes once you have crossed the finish line. Dress for the conditions in your area on the day of your event. Most of all take in the Tough Mudder experience, have fun and stay safe. Hoooorah!