Surviving the World’s Toughest Mudder is primarily about gear. Make no mistake, you must be able to get over and past some incredible obstacles, but I hope that if you’re crazy enough to sign up for this event that you are in decent physical shape and made it through a regular Tough Mudder with ease. If you haven’t at least done that or a Spartan Super or Beast, I hope you’re just reading this for fun.
That being said, let’s talk about basic survival gear. You will need a wetsuit if the weather and water temperatures are anywhere near where they were last year. Type, thickness and size will depend a lot on your body and how well you tolerate heat and cold when exercising. The focus on this article is surviving at least one lap, so I will tell you to get AT LEAST a 3mm thick wetsuit to start in the morning when the sun is up.
This may do fine for you all day if you’re one of those guys who does the polar bear plunge every year to raise money, but you’ll want that much protection for the longer swims even when the sun is at it’s strongest and you are feeling strong. Surf suits and triathlon suits are more flexible but may rip easier, while dive suits are tougher but not quite as flexible. You have to go over all possible options and hopefully try on the suits you plan to use before you buy them. Think about whether you can climb ropes or ladders in the suit, army crawl in the suit, and run at reasonable speed up a slick half pipe in it. Seriously, do your research and TRY IT ON.
Next, let’s talk about the extremities. Hands and feet will freeze if your core temp drops a little, so get some gloves, insulating socks, and a hat/hood. It goes without saying that cotton is dumb if you’ll get wet, so let’s not consider that an option. If you were thinking about wearing cotton anything, perhaps you should contact Tough Mudder about transferring your money to other events next year. I don’t know if they’ll do that but it’s better to lose some money than to lose 3 of your toes. For materials you want to look at things that insulate when wet, so consider the following:
Wool/Synthetic: Still provides insulation when wet. Useful as a base or middle layer, and can easily be layered.
Neoprene: Water finds it’s way into everything, but neoprene will help provide a barrier between the water that got in and the freezing water outside. This is the material that wetsuits are made of, and is also an option for socks and gloves. Since your hands and feet tend to prune up when they are constantly wet, you can’t just throw on thick rubber socks and gloves and assume all will go well. I’d recommend a neoprene hood for the water if you make it to the evening time, but it might be useful even during the day if the fit is not too restricting.
Beyond the gear, you’ll need to be able to keep moving, do a lot of climbing and crawling, and repetitively jump into 42 degree water for a solid 3 hours. If you think that’s something you can handle, then come on down. It’s a remarkably supportive environment for a race where you can win prize money, so expect that others will still help you up Everest and encourage you to keep moving. Ultimately, you’ll need to push yourself in order to complete the course, and I hope you do.