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After a sixth place finish at World’s Toughest Mudder 2013, Team Wheaties is primed for Vegas and eager to make another bold attempt at WTM glory. To do so, they’ll need to edge out last year’s team champions, 3am Waterfalls, Under Armour’s All-Australian Team and a pack of scrappy underdogs from across the globe.
So what adjustments has Team Wheaties made to improve its 2014 bid? And who are the boys hoping to secure a victory for the Breakfast of Champions? With WTM 2014 just days away, we caught up with ‘em to find out.
So who are the members of your team and how do you all know each other?
Our team members are Kent Gordon, 33; Michael Cowger, 25; Andrew Healy, 25 and Alex French, 25. Our team is comprised of childhood friends and colleagues. We found out we were all doing Tough Mudder Minneapolis/St. Paul 2013 and decided to train together.
How did your team get sponsored by Wheaties?
Right around the time we competed in WTM last year, Alex started a new job at General Mills. He immediately started networking with the Wheaties team and volunteered to train General Mills employees in preparation for Tough Mudder Minneapolis/St. Paul 2014. Eventually, he got a meeting with the marketing team and pitched the idea them. With a sixth place finish last year (at WTM 2013) and a passion for the brand, he was able to secure a sponsorship for the team.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from 2013 that has affected how you’re training for 2014?
The biggest lesson we learned is that if you want to win you cannot take a break. Last year we took what was planned to be a two hour break, and when we got back onto the course we dropped six places. Along with not taking a break, we also learned that WTM is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one.
What one-hour stretch of time was the most physically and emotionally taxing during last year’s race?
The worst hour was the first hour after taking our long break. We were physically hurt, mentally drained and overdressed. We had prepared multiple wetsuit options due to the freezing cold. The weather ended up being much warmer than we expected, which caused us to use more energy. It also wore on us mentally. The mental strain caused us to lose focus and lead us to make a few critical errors that ended up costing us additional mileage.
How often do you all train in person together?
We constantly train together. We all live within two miles of each other, so we're able to train together most days of the week. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays we have structured team training sessions. The rest of the week is more ad hoc, but no one ever trains alone. Along with training together, we’re great friends, so we do a lot together outside of working out. This helps build chemistry and creates trust.
The rules state that all team members must finish together. Do you have a plan if someone gets injured, tired or emotionally exhausted?
Getting injured is not an option. We make sure to take care of ourselves and get across all of the obstacles. When it comes to getting tired and emotionally exhausted, we know this is going to happen. We've gone through it many times, and luckily, we know each other extremely well. This allows us to help each other whenever somebody is at a low point.
What are some gear choices that can make or break a WTM race?
All gear choices related to your feet can make or break a WTM race. Once your feet go, it’s extremely difficult to continue on. Shoes, socks, bandages, tape and lubricant are all critical. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching and testing what works best for us.
If you guys win, what are you going to do with the prize money?
The prize money isn’t what we are striving for. It’s about pushing ourselves to the absolute limit to see what we are physically and mentally capable of. However, we’ll be in Las Vegas, and there’ll likely be pool parties, card games and all-you-can-eat buffets in our future.