Four local endurance racers have returned to Cranbrook with third place honours after competing in the world’s toughest obstacle course in New Jersey.
Mike Honeyman, Joe Detta, Miles Chisholm and Matt Johnson braved a 10-mile course littered with 39 obstacles over a 24-hour time period to place third at the World’s Toughest Mudder race.
The four unwittingly qualified for the event by finishing with a good enough time at a previous race near San Francisco at the end of September.
“It was tough,” said Honeyman. “It was a lot different than the one we did in San Francisco. That one was tough, but this was a whole new level of tough.”
“Our game plan was to go out and just pace ourselves, take it easy,” continued Detta. “We’re old-timers, we didn’t want to go to sleep and try to get up stiff and sore and get going again, so we just wanted to walk the whole night and that’s what we did.”
The four ended the race completing five laps that covered 50 miles and included 160 obstacles.
Some challenges included climbing over 10-foot walls, swimming through pools of water, crawling through mud and crossing pits of mud on a balance beam.
Like the story of the hare and the tortoise, the four elected to take things slow and steady, to conserve as much energy as possible without gassing themselves right away.
However, it was tough watching people running past them at the beginning of the race, said Detta.
“We were getting a bit antsy, but it’s a 24-hour race and a lot of those people who ripped by us, they were done, they didn’t make it the whole way,” said Detta.
“… Some guys went out hard and couldn’t finish, some guys petered out. On the last lap, we made over two miles on that third place team to catch them and pass them.”
“When we came around that last mile, we just gave ‘er,” Johnson added. “We just ran and tried to finish off as best we could, and in that last mile, we passed another team that put us into third place and they finished four minutes behind us.”
The race had pretty fair weather during the day, but temperatures dipped down to below freezing at night.
“The first two laps were fun. I found them fun, they were more challenging, the sun was out and I thought, ‘Hey, this is awesome, this is a piece of cake,'” said Detta.
“The second one [lap] was kind of the same thing, but as soon as the sun went down and fatigue was setting in, it was not fun.”
Johnson added that the nighttime freezing temperatures added an extra degree of difficulty to obstacles.
“We had ice on the water, we were trying to swim across and breaking through a skim of ice and all the obstacles around the water were frozen solid, so the cargo nets were really hard to climb because they were covered in ice,” Johnson said.
“The wooden platforms and anything that we needed to climb over was slick or slippery.”
Those kind of conditions also affected the body, in terms of physical and mental wear and tear, added Chisholm.
“I’d say that was the biggest obstacle for the majority of the people on the course, was the temperature and the constant drain of temperature from the body from the water,” Chisholm said.
“Even a little bit of wind was sucking temperature from the body, so I think, for most people, that threat of hypothermia and the drain of temperature from the body was the hardest part.”
The four slogged through the night and made a game plan going into dawn, according to Detta.
“Going into the fourth lap, we came up with a game plan on how to get through the next couple of laps and that involved the sun coming up and our families showing up to support us, which was huge,” he said.
The course was designed so that spectators could tag along with the racers, and the four leaned on their families and girlfriends to give them a boost when times got tough.
“Especially at 6:30 a.m. in the morning, when they showed up at the track, we come climbing over this one obstacle, our heads peer over the top and here they are standing there and cheering us on,” said Johnson.
“It just made a whole new thing happen for us. It was awesome.”
The team had about four weeks to prepare for the race, after finding out they qualified when they blitzed through the Tough Mudder race near San Francisco.
They knew the toughest part of the race would be at night, and did a lot of training between the two races to prepare.
“We all work 10 to 12 hours a day, and then at night time, we trained another six to seven hours at night, so those are long days, both mentally at work and physically out training, I think it helped us big time,” said Johnson.
The team was outfitted by Rob Porter at Just Liquid, and had support from Core Fitness, Rocky Mountain Academy of Martial Arts, Cranbrook Eagles Boxing Club, Arrow Installations and Freightliner.