Tough Mudder Missouri is only a day away, and teams have been training — or not — for weeks now to tackle the more than 20 obstacles on the 10- to 12-mile course on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
For Irina and Andy Coombes, of Springfield, Sedalia will mark their third Tough Mudder adventure. They first competed in fall 2014 in Montgomery City, then traveled to Oklahoma in May 2015.
During their first Tough Mudder, they had to deal with pouring rain, but still finished the course in three and a half hours. During their second, Irina got strep the day before, so it took five and a half hours. With a dry forecast this weekend, participants are hoping to only battle the obstacles, not the weather.
Irina, a Sedalia native, said she had been training for a marathon while Andy focuses on weight training, so their first Tough Mudder was something for them to do together. Andy said it’s a chance for the young, working parents to experience something new.
“When we first saw Tough Mudder, we saw advertisements and looked it up, there was a certain amount of fear and excitement,” Andy said by phone Thursday afternoon. “Mostly as an adult we don’t have a lot of opportunities to really challenge us, stretch us, see how far we can go, really push ourselves to a new level of intensity. It’s a great opportunity to step outside our comfort zone. It’s not only exciting and different but it will stretch us and push us.
“When we finished, we thought it was amazing but that we wouldn’t do it again. Once our bodies recovered, we decided that was one of the greatest things we’ve done or experienced. We felt we accomplished something amazing and we thought ‘we’ve got to do this again.’ That stood true after the second time.”
While anyone up for the challenge is encouraged to participate, it’s not for the faint of heart. As participants run or walk the course, they face obstacles that involve ice, water and mud and require strength and endurance. Since Andy lifts weights and Irina is a runner, they both had to focus on new types of exercise to train for Tough Mudder. Irina said they workout mostly in their garage, run on a trail near their neighborhood, lift weights, use workout DVDs, plus bike with their kids.
“For us our training styles differ a little because she likes to do a lot more cardio, body weight, P90X and other programs, where I’ve been working out for years and like to do weight training, body building,” Andy said. “With Tough Mudder I have to work on, for me, upping cardio — with the course being 10 to 13 miles, the biggest struggle is cardio, keeping up my endurance. I can complete the obstacles mostly with ease because of my background but I have trouble with endurance. For my wife, it’s the opposite.”
Tough Mudder officials have told the Democrat the event emphasizes the need to work together with teammates and strangers, rather than racing against a clock individually. The Coombes’ will be joined by a friend and Irina’s brother this year. While they have a team, they both said it’s not uncommon to accept and offer help to anyone. Andy described it as an “inspiring atmosphere.”
“It’s all camaraderie. We tell stories, like last year there was a lady on top of a wall and she was scared of going down; she got to the top and then was just sitting there,” Irina said by phone Thursday afternoon. “People were urging her on, cheering. It took her a little to get down, but everyone was cheering. It is definitely all team work, people helping each other out. If one person is struggling you don’t leave them behind.
“There’s a part where you have to carry a partner and I said ‘I want to do that,’ so I got to carry my husband,” she added. “It is team building.”
The couple offered some advice for any first-time Tough Mudder competitors, including being prepared for the mental exhaustion as well as the physical.
“I recommend wear light clothing — when you get muddy and have all the mud and water on you, they’ll fall off you. Wear something loose, not cotton. Tie your shoes tight. We’ve seen so many people lose their shoes,” Irina said with a laugh. “Be comfortable and invest in good socks that won’t give you blisters.”
“Don’t be afraid and just have fun,” Andy advised. “So many want to try to limit themselves or think they’re not good enough or not qualified enough, not in shape enough. The experience can be wonderful for anyone. Just have fun with it. Don’t worry about the time or how successful, or if it’s just walking the course and seeing what you can do. For me it’s stretching potential from where you’re at.
“If you’re questioning doing it, I say just do it,” he added. “Step outside your comfort zone — when’s the last time you said you did something for the first time? As adults we stop doing things for the first time, we get in redundant patterns and stop experiencing new things. Fear holds us back; I say just do it.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.