Confessions From A Personal Trainer: The Top 10 Lessons I Learned From World’s Toughest Mudder 2016

True Confession Tuesday:

Where every Tuesday: I confess.

Confession: This years World’s Toughest Mudder consisted of an epic meltdown, lots of peanut butter Snickers, misuse of a wetsuit, and a self-inflicted black eye.

The Top 10 Lessons From WTM 2016


1. The mind is a crazy, crazy thing.

I had a full-blown meltdown (with sobbing) on Lap 2.  Mind you – that’s a little early to have a meltdown in a 24 hour race. The obstacles this year were bigger and I do mean bigger (in size) but they were also more challenging. I’m not as strong in my upper body as I am in my lower body. So when I came to the new monkey bar obstacle, I fell but it wasn’t that upsetting. I’ll get it the next time. But when I came to an obstacle called Double Rainbow, the story changed. You have to jump out onto a bar and then swing and grab the next one and then you land on an air pillow. Well I’m pretty sure every single person in this event was able to do it. So when I got up there, I felt pretty good, fairly confident and before I knew it, I was in the water. I had failed the obstacle. When I climbed out of the water, I just started sobbing. All the nerves, the excitement, the frustration, everything started pouring out. It felt like all my training for a year was for nothing because I fell off the bar. In my  mind – I expected to be able to do the obstacle on the first try. I expected that I would just be good at the new obstacles. Luckily I was able to pull myself together (eventually) with the help of Jessie, the amazing pit crew, and my fellow mud brothers and sisters.

2. I still don’t quite know how to properly use a wetsuit.

In 2015 it was cold, cold, cold and a lot of people got disqualified because of hypothermia caused because they put their wetsuit on too late. Luckily last year we put the wetsuit on early and were able to stay warm (ish). This year was warm and posed quite a different scenario. But knowing that when the sun goes down (at 4:30pm) the desert gets really cold and the water also cools down. So we put our wetsuits on before Lap 3, which was around 3:15/3:30. It was still hot out. And it did cool down into the night, but not near as much as last year. It is exhausting wearing a thick, heavy wetsuit to run. But we adjusted and ran through the night. The problem came in the morning when the sun came back out. We probably should have taken time to change out of the super thick wet suit and put the shortie on. Because we were SO HOT. But then you’d get in the water and get chilly. Plus having the wetsuit on helped when you jumped off the cliff. So now that I’ve had a really cold experience and a warmer experience, hopefully next year I can put the two together for the perfectly optimized wetsuit scenario.


3. Peanut Butter Snickers can really motivate you.

I like to keep a fairly clean and healthy diet but knowing I was going to get a mini candy bar each lap – really kept me going. In all seriousness – the quick sugars are easy to digest and go straight into your system. Other foods we ate: Chipotle, pop tarts, baby food packets, part of a chicken burrito, lots of electrolyte water, and some chicken noodle soup.

4. It feels good to run fast.

The first hour of the race is without obstacles. As soon as that hour is up, you have to do whatever obstacle is next. Last year we had to do a couple of obstacles and did not finish a full lap within that hour. This year we decided to push the speed and try to finish a whole lap – and we did! It felt good to push the speed and see how far we could go.

5. You can lose your mind in the darkness of the night.

As I mentioned it gets dark at 4:30pm in Vegas…which means by 2:30/3:00am it had been dark for 11 hours and counting. We had been cruising along and doing really well until the 8th lap (35-40mile lap). We were so tired and started sleepwalking and sort of stumbling around with our eyes closed. *not good for doing obstacles and running.* We both decided it would be smart to take the penalty for the Cliff jump because we weren’t really sure we were with it enough to jump and swim across. After this lap I actually wondered “will we be able to continue? Is this it? Is it over?” But the pit crew reminded us that we lost our mind last year about this time right before the sun came up and that all we needed was some caffeine, sugar, and to keep pushing on. Sure enough – all those things worked and we pushed on. Later we also heard from MANY people who either took a nap at this time or really struggled to get through. Good to know it wasn’t just us. And as Sean the great motivator and MC always says “You don’t finish at the finish line, you find your finish somewhere out on the course and then you bring it home to the finish line.” So, so, so true.

6. Play to your strengths.

I wrote this last year and it applies again. After I had my meltdown about not completing obstacles I was reminded that I am killer at finishing penalties FAST. All of the penalties included extra running (sometimes with a sandbag). I am much stronger at running so I could complete the penalties in no time while Jessie did the obstacle. It also saves on time and frustration from attempting the obstacle, failing, and then having to still take the penalty.

However, I did make it across KONG on the first try (not any other laps, but proud of myself for getting across).


7. I have the best support.

Seriously, all of you are so amazing. I could feel the support from thousands of miles away. I was overwhelmed with love when I finished, opened up my phone and read the text messages, the Facebook messages, and talked to family. You really do not do an event like this in a vacuum. You need the love, support, laughter, and cheers from everyone in your life. And so from the bottom of my heart – THANK YOU. It means the world.

8. It’s great to find out you’re in better shape than last year.

This year I wondered if I would be as fit as last year. Simply because we did not put in as many big 24 hour work outs as in 2015. But we did have big Mudder weekends in Colorado (up and down the mountain) and all over the country. Consistency was also key – we never took a chunk of time off but stayed on track with weight lifting, running, ninja training, rock climbing and more. Next year – more running. That truly is the only way to get more miles in.

9. Mud friends are the best friends.

You know you have found your tribe of people that are just as crazy as you when half of your Facebook feed the few days before WTM is all of your friends heading to Vegas and when you get back it’s full of everyone’s WTM summaries. I have written a lot about finding “your people” and my people run around the desert doing obstacles and peeing in their wetsuits for 24 hours. No matter where you were on course, someone was there to say hi, give a helping hand, speak some encouraging words, and to give hugs. You can’t help but smile when your friends stop by your tent to say hi before the race or you see them on course. I just have to stop and give a huge shout out to all of our mud brothers we have here from Minnesota. 2 finished with 75 miles, 2 finished with 65 miles, and 1 with 60 miles. A great group of guys to look up to and I’d say we represented the north well!


Doesn’t everyone have friends who paint their face??

10. The mind is a crazy, crazy thing.

Did I use this one already? Well it’s true again but in a different scenario. We finished the race and both wondered “could we have done another lap?” Deep inside – I knew we could have. We were on pace for 60 miles, so 55 should have been no problem. But the middle of the night and that crazy 8th lap really took a toll on our mind and our bodies. Plus our feet were killing, our chafing was getting worse, we were hot, and we didn’t want to be out there for extra time. So in the end, we slowed down instead of speeding up to get that extra lap. Like I said – the mind is a crazy thing. You can do 9 outstanding things and have 1 regret and your mind focuses on that 1 thing. In the spirit of celebrating all the great things we did – here’s a list of ways we crushed it!

  • 50 miles 2 years in a row
  • Finished 50 miles 2 hours faster than last year
  • Stayed out for all 24 hours, never took a break
  • Made it up Everest (warped wall) all 9 times without a penalty
  • Got 6 laps in by midnight
  • Finished the first lap within an hour and no obstacles
  • Helped people at obstacles
  • Didn’t have to poop!

Oh and the black eye – jammed my thumb up my eye when jumping off the cliff (from plugging my  nose). Self inflicted none the less. 🙂

Bonus Lesson  – Comparison really is the thief of joy. You can not go to a race like WTM with athletes of superb caliber (who train as their full time job) and compare yourself. You also can’t compare yourself to anyone else out there because it is YOUR race, YOUR day, YOUR preparation.

The fire has been turned up for next year – 2017 is the year of 60 miles. After feeling like we left a little bit on the course this year, the training is going to get turned up a notch. My personal goals – spend a lot of time at the ninja gym strengthening my upper body so I can stand a chance at completing more obstacles next year.

Sometimes I feel like the 10 year old girl who couldn’t even run the mile fast enough in gym class, so it feels pretty bad ass to complete such a big event and prove to myself that I can do it!

I encourage you to find your people, set a goal (doesn’t have to be physical), train for it, prepare for it, and then go out there and push yourself. I can promise – you will be surprised at what you can do! 

And if you’re still reading (thank you!) but you’ve come to the best part of the whole weekend. We met our IDOL – Amelia Boone. 3x winner of Worlds Toughest Mudder and the most humble, real, super accomplished obstacle racing athlete. Not all sports have such an outstanding role model who embodies the sport but is also a genuinely nice human being – it put a nice bow on our WTM 2016 experience.




More fun photos from the event.


You can’t survive a 24 hour race without the PIT CREW. Seriously. They did more work than we did: running around to obstacles, bringing food, drink, heating up soup, yelling, cheering, staying up for all 24 hours, AND pouring me into my wetsuit (not an easy task).


Mike – the best volunteer from 2015. He stays out for the full 24 hours and this year he brought his DAD and together they were out there the WHOLE TIME. We got hugs on our last lap. 🙂 You can’t do WTM without amazing volunteers like Mike.


John plays the bagpipes the WHOLE time while his daughter Hannah races. It gives you chills to hear the bagpipes in the dead of night as you’re marching up a hill.


Funky Monkey the Revolution – this was right before I went PLOP in the water.


I have a hate/hate relationship with cargo nets and this year it got EVEN WORSE.


This was the cargo net. Ugh. Why????


Our muddy friend Francis and Santa – Santa has done 24 Tough Mudders! And I want to also share a clip from Francis and his experience at WTM – because this is what it’s really all about.

“What made the experience of WTM16’ that much sweeter this year was having my mom there at the finish line. Last year November 2015, my mom was told she had gone into remission for the Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Caner. Just like then, as we do now, we know that doesn’t mean it’s over and it hasn’t been. Since then she has gone through 6 more chemo treatments, rehab and physical therapy, countless bloodwork sessions, bumps and bruises, but she is still getting stronger everyday and making progress. Every day is still #onemoredayabovetheroses. This November marked the one year anniversary of her being in remission. At first when I had talked to her about it she didn’t want to celebrate it. It was something that she felt if we celebrated it then we might jinx it, it could mean all the pain could return, but I know from countless people that I have met on and off the TM course, you have to celebrate, even the little things. We always know it’s a possibility of a relapse with the cancer, but that doesn’t stop the fact that it is a major milestone in the process of overcoming this obstacle. Last year my now amazing wife, Katie Lackner, had my parents on Skype so they could see me finish, they wanted to be there in person but I knew my mom was not going to be strong enough for it, so video chat would have to work for then… So this year I wanted her and my dad there in person to see me, but she thought she was just coming there to watch her baby boy cross the finish line but I had more in store, which was to surprise her this year at WTM by walking her across the finish line. It was the last 100 feet, the final time I would cross the finish line for the event, finishing 35 miles over 25hrs, but it was a milestone of 12 months of hard work for her, 12 months of not giving up, 12 months of not being defined by a disease that has assaulted her. At the finish line she then sat back in her wheelchair, about to watch as her boy would get a black 24hr headband put on his head, as she had been watching other competitors receive while waiting for me, but instead I grabbed the headband saying thank you to the volunteer and crowned HER with the 24hr headband. It may say 24hrs, but it’s for her victory of overcoming obstacles. It was met with countless cheers from people there, friends, and family and will be what I remember most from this year’s WTM.”


THE CLIFF – see me at the bottom of the picture? I GO FAST down into the water.


All the Mudders eat In ‘N Out after the race. Food had never tasted so good.


The laundry……always have to hit up a laundromat to get the initial stink out of the clothes before you pack them in a suitcase.

What a great year – can’t wait until 2017!


Don’t forget to head over to the PARTICIPATE page for all upcoming events including work outs, group classes, book clubs, and more.

If you enjoy the blog and would like to receive them directly to your email, along with education, event announcements and more – join us on the email list.

If you are local to Minneapolis and would like event announcements as well as blogs, click HERE and if you are not and would only like the blog and education click HERE.


You can find the Mind, Muscle, and Movement PODCAST in iTunes. Check it out.

Leave a Comment