Brandon Schweitzer can say he’s accomplished what few others have – a physical feat his friends find both inspiring and a bit nuts.
On Nov. 15 and 16, Schweitzer was one of just over 1,000 people in Las Vegas taking part in this year’s World’s Toughest Mudder – a five-mile obstacle course, run repeatedly over a 24-hour period.
He came in 255th place overall but, more importantly, he completed his 50-mile goal, coming away with bragging rights, an aching body and a somewhat enlightened perspective.
“Emotionally, it’s good because if you can get through that, everything else should be a little bit easier,” said Schweitzer, a Sicamous native who currently resides in Kelowna, where he teaches jiu jitsu. “My knees will pay for it for the next little while and I’m not doing any running for a couple months. But everything else will heal up.”
With names like ‘Arctic enema,’ Berlin walls,’ and ‘Sewage dump,’ the obstacles – frequently involving climbing over, walking through or crawling in water and mud – are designed to test the limits of a competitor’s physical and mental endurance. But for Schweitzer, the real battle was the duration of the event, as well as the weather.
“Running for 24 hours was harder than I expected,” said Schweitzer. “Because once you start to get tired, once you start to get sore, there’s no going back. It’s not like you’re recovering, you’re just going deeper into that.”
Schweitzer says he anticipated the cooler nighttime temperatures of the Nevada desert but, being wet throughout the 24-hour event, combined with the wind, made three degrees feel like minus 30. If he hadn’t been moving, Schweitzer says he likely would have become hypothermic.
“I couldn’t feel my hands or anything; it was brutal,” he said.
And then there was the sudden sandstorm with 50-mile-an-hour winds.
“There were some people walking backwards, some people who just quit,” said Schweitzer, whose nose started bleeding from inhaling the rapidly swirling particulate. “The only way to get back to the pit or the camp area was to just sort of finish your lap anyway, so I just kept going forward, hoping it would kind of die down, which it kind of did anyway, but not until about two or three a.m.”
Adding to the difficulties, Schweitzer’s tent broke in the night, making it “almost impossible to warm up between laps or keep the dust away from the gear.”
“Absolutely incredible” is how Tonya Aguiar, Schweitzer’s personal trainer and one-person pit crew, prefaces a Facebook post on his performance. He credits Aguiar for helping him achieve his 50-mile goal, as well as the camaraderie on the course.
“They’re pretty much just like family when you’re out on the course. You’re never stuck by yourself… I don’t think you could ever go through something like that by yourself and choose to continue to do it. But with support like that you could,” he said.
While his friends are impressed, if not inspired, Schweitzer says most stand by their opinion that he’s insane for taking part in the World’s Toughest Mudder. But he says at least one person is interested in joining him next year, and if the two of them can put a team together, Schweitzer says he would do it again, just for the different experience a team-dynamic would offer.
Schweitzer doesn’t deny the World’s Toughest Mudder is as bad as it sounds, but says it’s a great experience all the same. He says he did it to test himself, to see if he could do what most people would never consider doing.
“Everybody sort of says, ‘well, I can’t believe you’d do that. I’d never do that in a million years,’” explained Schweitzer. “That’s sort of the point. I just did something that 99 per cent of the population couldn’t do and that’s kind of a neat thing for me.”