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Virginia native and six-time Tough Mudder finisher Heather Ferguson is much more than a World’s Toughest Mudder. She’s mother to the World’s Toughest Baby. So what exactly constitutes “tough” for a baby? How about running 1,600 miles… before being born. Yes, we thought she had some explaining to do too--that’s why we asked Heather to tell her story of her daughter Zoey, aka World’s Toughest Baby (WTB), in her own words.
Be afraid, Chuck Norris. Be very afraid.
Muddy barbed wire. Frozen cargo nets. Ice-crusted half-pipe obstacle, Everest. Murky ponds. Welcome to World’s Toughest Mudder. I was shivering, exhausted and trying desperately to regain feeling in my hands while all along thinking, “This is amazing.”
My final lap of World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) 2012 was the toughest. However, when your husband, several dedicated friends and three members of your youth group drove six hours to see you finish your first 24 hour race, quitting is not an option.
When all was said and done, I'd met some truly inspiring mudders, reached my goal of being on course all 24 hours and had the added bonus of finishing fourth place overall in the female standings. Not long after crossing the finish line, I vowed to be back again in 2013.
Little did I know how much my life was about to change, however. In the winter of 2013 I was in full training mode for the 2013 WTM. I was running approximately 60 miles a week and weight training daily, in addition to partaking in a few extra-curricular activities with my youth group (who are always eager to assist me with training as long as it involves paintballing, snowboarding and rock climbing).
My husband and I had talked about the possibility of having a baby. But considering we’d been married 16 years, I had my doubts as to whether or not that was going to happen, so we resolved to be content and just wait and see what happened. But before I had time to sign up for the next 24 hour endurance race, we were surprised to discover a baby was on the way in March. We nicknamed our child “WTB” for World’s Toughest Baby because our due date was the same month as WTM. WTB became a pseudo-celebrity because after we shared the news, our church’s bulletin began a countdown to the birth of WTB.
She was just giggling and cooing and squealing to see Mommy, but it was the most motivating cheer I could ever imagine.
Thus began nine months of a new type of training (and some very interesting conversations). First doctor’s visit:
Me: So about exercising? Can I keep running?
Doctor: Normally, women can continue activities they were doing before pregnancy.
Husband (concerned voice): Yeah, her activities aren’t normal. Can we get a list or something?
After a rather thorough follow up discussion, icy dumpster diving, electrical shocking and all-night racing were on the “restricted list” while carrying WTB. As it turns out, I was very blessed with an incredibly healthy pregnancy and ran right up to the day of delivery. I averaged 40 miles a week until the final month, then dropped to 35 miles for those last few weeks. I celebrated each day running thinking, “Well, I’ve never run seven miles while seven months pregnant, so today was a PR!” Granted, they were slow miles, but I knew each run was a blessing.
We worked very closely with my doctor to monitor WTB’s growth, ensuring my running didn’t deprive WTB of nutrients. However, ultrasounds showed above average growth, and it turns out, our little WTB arrived at a healthy nine pounds and six ounces--by no means a low birth-weight baby.
I enjoyed a healthy and happy pregnancy with excellent blood pressure and no difficult side effects. (I’ll throw in a disclaimer right here that every pregnancy is different and for you guys, it could be very hazardous to your health to tell any pregnant lady she needs to go running.)
Born on November 26, 2013, WTB is a healthy, beautiful baby girl. She is amazing and has taken my workouts to a whole new level. We “negotiated” a four week recovery, and I resumed running again (with my doctor’s approval) on Christmas Eve. I will never forget that run. There were no epic obstacles or cheering spectators, yet that first run four weeks since my last run before the baby will forever be a favorite run and most cherished memory.
During my maternity leave, I embraced training, feeling empowered and rejuvenated after each daily run. I also embraced the help of family members and my amazing husband without whose support I would never have been able to regain and rebuild my fitness.
When my mom, sister or friends from church offered to come over so I could “rest,” I eagerly accepted and then laced up my running shoes. If no one was scheduled to come by that day, I got up at 5am and ran with my WTM headlamp on before my husband left for work. I ordered snow chains for my running shoes and ran when it was 16 degrees [Fahrenheit] outside with four inches of fresh icy snow on the ground. I felt a new sense of motivation thinking, “If I can run at nine months pregnant, than this is easy”.
Yeah, I may have gone a little overboard, but I couldn’t wait to get back out there. When WTB turned two months old, I was back at 40 miles a week. Somewhere between three and four months, I hit 50+ miles a week. At five months, I ran my first post-baby OCR and had a BLAST.
I knew the course, and my husband was waiting at the top of the steepest hill, holding our daughter and cheering for me. At that moment, I found a gear I didn’t know existed. There is something profound about seeing your child on the course. Sure, she was just giggling and cooing and squealing to see Mommy, but it was the most motivating cheer I could ever imagine.
We finished: first place female. And then finally, the long awaited announcement of WTM 2014 came. VEGAS! Vegas? A desert? No ice? At first, the logistics of traveling across the country to run a race with a 12-month-old baby seemed a little daunting, but the advantages also raced through my head--warmer temperatures would be far better for baby spectating. World’s Toughest Mudder 2014 also has an on-site hotel. Game changer. Not having to trek back and forth between a hotel and the course is ideal to anyone with a baby.
I already have so much gear. I’ve worked hard (and am still working hard) to regain strength and endurance. WTM 2014 will be a challenge, but it’s going to be a challenge for each person at that start line. We all bring our own story, our own obstacles and our own motivations to the course. My motivation is a beautiful little girl who just started saying “Mama.”