Travis’ Note: Today’s guest post comes from Allana Leblanc (now our all-time leader with 3 guest posts to her name). You can find out more about Allana at the bottom of this post. You can find out how to submit your own Obesity Panacea guest post here.
With another summer coming to an end, I can imagine that either you, or someone you know has completed a race of some kind. It seems like we’re turning into a race nation with various fun runs, triathalons, duathalons, mud runs, and road races happening almost every weekend. You can often do these races as teams, as a relay, or as a solo expedition and they come in pretty much every possible distance (160 km ultra-marathon perhaps?).
For lack of a better term, the newest trend in racing seems to be “mud runs” (see here for more info) that promise participants exhilaration and mud. These are races that challenge (willing!) participants to run up ski hills, over/under/around/through trenches of mud and to throw their body into ice baths, electric shocks and flames. Through a quick Google search I found the mud run, the Spartan Race, the Warrior Dash, the Dirty Dash, the Punisher Adventure Race, the Dirty Donkey Mud Run, the Mud Hero but I’m sure there are many more.
The Tough Mudder (which claims to be “probably the toughest event on the planet”) was held at just two locations in Canada this year (Whistler, BC and this past weekend just outside of Barrie, ON). It’s a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces. Having only ever completed your normal road race/duathalon before, I decided that this was a good place to get my feet wet (and muddy). It was great. It was extremely well organized, exhilarating, MUDDY and I can’t wait to do it next year. The obstacles were unique and such that no matter how much training you did, you’d be challenged. Everyone was encouraged to sign up as a team and along the course there were route markers encouraging teamwork “no mudder left behind” and camaraderie “this is a challenge, not a race” There were also signs with other forms of encouragement … “remember, you signed a death waiver” and “hell starts here”. The event was well covered in papers from The Toronto Star (here) to raw video in The Globe and Mail (here and here) and next year they plan to add two additional Canadian cities to the tour (Montreal and Calgary).
[Travis' Note: I have embedded below a first-person video from the event that Allana participated in last weekend, which gives a great idea of what it's like to participate in these events]
But it was also time consuming, expensive and PAINFUL. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so sore from an athletic event in my life (including two cycling accidents but not including knee/elbow surgery). Anyone who’s ever participated in intense or unusual physical activity has likely experiences delayed onset muscle stiffness (DOMS) before. DOMS are pretty well understood to be at their worst about 48 hours after exercise, especially when that exercise involves lots of eccentric contractions (i.e. running down a ski hill is a top contender). Needless to say, Monday morning was spent wheeling around in my office chair. On top of the DOMS, my legs, arms and stomach were covered in scratches and bruises that 3 days later still leaves me avoiding pants.
In conclusion, I leave it with the readers to answer the “why” we do this. Why do we eagerly invest our time and money in events that ultimately leave us hobbling around helplessly? There have been many, many books and articles trying to answer this question, but still seems a bit crazy to me…
About the Author: Allana LeBlanc is a Certified Exercise Physiologist and Research coordinator. She is a co-author on the process papers outlining the new physical activity guidelines and systematic review, as well as lead author on the systematic review on which the sedentary behaviour guidelines are based.
Byrnes WC, Clarkson PM, White JS, Hsieh SS, Frykman PN, Maughan RJ. Delayed onset muscle soreness following repeated bouts of downhill running. Journal of Applied Physiology. 1985; 59(3):710-715.