[notice]Tips for Photographing a Tough Mudder are listed at the end of this post.[/notice]
Last weekend I completed the hardest challenge I have ever set myself up for, the 2013 Tough Mudder in Topeka Kansas. However, this is a challenge that I absolutely could not have done without the awesome team that my buddy Barrett put together, The Rock Warriors. The ten of us accomplished a feat that I could have only dreamed of until recently. This feat consisted of 25 grueling obstacles over 11 miles, it took us nearly 4 hours to complete! My wife did an excellent job of taking pictures of us throughout the challenge.
What is a Tough Mudder?
The tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile obstacle course . The obstacles are designed to test the fears of the normal human being. From heights to confined spaces the Tough Mudder crew have developed the World’s most challenging obstacle course to date.
The Tough Mudder is not a race! It is a challenge and stepping on the Mudder in front of you to get to the top is not an option! Using teamwork and helping your fellow Mudder is the only way to complete the course. As a matter of fact, we had a team of 10 people and still needed the help of other teams to complete the Mud Mile, an indescribable series of trenches and hills filled with mud the consistency of yogurt!
The Tough Mudder is by far the most difficult obstacle challenge you could ever find yourself in.
How To Prepare For a Tough Mudder
I started preparing for the Tough Mudder in March of 2013 when I signed up. I watched many YouTube videos and read several fitness blogs to prepare a workout regimen. Even after all of the preparation I was not prepared for the challenges I would face!
It was difficult to prepare for the Mudder the “appropriate” way with the lifestyle I have developed as a Blogger / Family Man with a full time job. Luckily, I was able to workout for a little under an hour a day at my job. On Tuesday I would run, in March that run was about a mile and a half that by September became 4 – 4.5 miles. On Wednesday I would do a highly intense cardio workout that included many types of activities that used my body as the weight. Thursday was another run similar to Tuesday, and Friday I would change it up with a mixture of both or one or the other.
About half way through my training my Mom sent me some Advocare products that really helped, both on the course and in preparation. I used O2 Gold, Rehydrate, and Arginine Extreme before my runs. Prior to a cardio workout I would take Muscle Fuel and Catalyst. I followed all of my workouts with a Post Workout Recovery Shake and Night Time Recovery before bed. I used Spark all of the time! This stuff is awesome, it gives you the mental focus of an energy drink without the crash later. The best part, it tastes awesome (I highly suggest Watermelon)!
My workout routine looked something like this on a weekly basis, but I would change it up with other activities as well:
Saturday, Sunday and Monday consisted of lifting a 35 pound 2 year old onto various objects and sometimes carrying him several hundred feet from the car to the store. Regardless of the workouts that I did, I was still under prepared! On the third obstacle I involuntarily became a cheerleader doing the splits which stressed both of my groin muscles (I still had 7 miles left).
The Day of the Tough Mudder
The day of the Mudder there is a lot going on and it all moves very fast so prepare well beforehand! I woke up and ate a carb-heavy breakfast. It consisted of a Bagel with Peanut Butter, Blueberry Yogurt, and 2 bananas. I did not drink coffee or tea, I drank plenty of water and just before leaving the hotel for the Mudder I drank a Watermelon Spark and took some O2 Gold.
It is important to wear appropriate clothing. For the Tough Mudder I wore an Under Armor short sleeve Compression Shirt, Under Armor Shorts, All-Sport Reebok Socks, and Neumann Football Gloves. The Compression shirt was important for its wicking and warming capabilities, there are several obstacles with cold water! As far as the shoes, wear something comfortable for running but not too fancy, they will get destroyed and you may very well lose them in the quicksand mud pits in the Mud Mile. They have a donation tent for shoes at the end, I recommend leaving yours there!
For the run itself, I brought along several packets of Rehydrate in the gel form. I stuffed about 4 of them in my pockets with every intention of taking one every hour for the electrolytes, however, 2 of them fell out along the course. I highly suggest some form of electrolyte replacement when you are on the course. These packets worked great as I could easily tear off the top and suck down the gel while running.
At mile 8 I ran out of electrolytes, my calves started to cramp up and go into shock. Luckily my buddy Barrett hooked me up with some electrolyte pills he had in his bag and I was good to go. Bring some form of electrolyte replacement on the course!
Why Even Bother Doing a Tough Mudder?
Because at the end of the course you get a Headband, a T-Shirt, and a Free Beer! While those three things are great and all, they do not compare to the sense of accomplishment you will be overcome by. Knowing that you just completed the World’s most difficult challenge with a group of your best buds is an awesome feeling. Many of the people on my team I knew, some I met that day, but we all left knowing that we could not have done the course without one another. We formed strong intangible bonds that could not be broken, even by the toughest obstacles. That is why you should do a Tough Mudder and that is why I will be doing the tough Mudder again next year!
Tips for Photographing a Tough Mudder:
I was unable to photograph the Tough Mudder as I was busy running the challenge so I set my camera up for my wife prior to handing it over to her. You know I must trust my wife an awful lot when I leave her unattended with Camran (Canon 6D) for over 4 hours. Oh the things they must have talked about together, I hope they had all kinds of good things to say about me.
The setup was something like this:
- Shutter Priority set to 1/1250 of a second, this is a great shutter speed for photographing people running, especially at the Mudder as they do not tend to run faster than a 10 or 11 minute mile which is just a bit faster than a jog.
- ISO set to 400 I set the ISO to 400 to ensure the shots would get captured without too much motion blur. In combination with the 1/1250 of a second shutter speed every picture was free of motion blur.
- Frame Rate set to rapid succession. I set my camera to its highest frame rate so my wife could lay down the law on the shutter and capture every ounce of running and jumping action. This is imperative when shooting any sporting event as it will leave your focal point the same from picture to picture instead of refocusing in between shots.
- Focus was set to auto. I handed the camera to the wife with the focus set to auto with the center as the auto focus point.
- Average Metering is ideal in this type of environment in case you accidentally focus on something black or dark like gym shorts or mud. The average metering will take the light reading of the entire frame as opposed to one specific spot.
- White Balance was set to auto just to make it easier on the wife. That leads me to the next setting.
- RAW capture mode was selected to ensure I could fix the White Balance in post if I needed to. It was also very helpful to have the extra dynamic range of the RAW file as the shadows would often fall pretty hard on our faces due to the lack of clouds in the sky. Using Adobe Camera Raw, I was able to pull all of that information out instead of having unevenly lit photos. This was no fault of my beautiful photographer, the sun was brutal on the Kansas landscape and offered us no cloud cover all day!
- Last but not least, I attached the 70-300mm Lens. A zoom lens is essential for photographing these types of events. More often than not, you will have crowds in front of you or you will be too far away from the action for a wide angle lens to suffice. A good zoom is mandatory! It does not have to be an f/2.8 or anything too fancy as Apertures that low are not necessary. In outdoor lighting conditions such as a Tough Mudder, you will be fine with even a kit zoom.