Toughest of all? Tempe man to take on ‘Mudder,’ ‘Chang’s’ back-to-back - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Toughest of all? Tempe man to take on ‘Mudder,’ ‘Chang’s’ back-to-back

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Mike Sakal’s column runs on Fridays. Contact him at (480) 898-6533 or, or write to Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 1620 W. Fountainhead Pkwy., Suite 219, Tempe, AZ 85282

Posted: Friday, December 30, 2011 8:19 am | Updated: 2:05 pm, Fri Dec 30, 2011.

When Gabe Urias turns 51 on Jan. 14, he’ll be marking his birthday in a way that many of us wouldn’t try at age 31.

In fact, Patrick Harfst, Urias’ friend, colleague, and fellow “Tough Mudder,” says he’s crazy — but a “good” crazy.

Urias, a long-distance runner who has been competing in marathons for the last six years, has been training for the Tough Mudder Race that will be held at the former GM Proving Grounds in Mesa on his birthday. Then, the following day — after about 18 hours of recovery time — he will run the streets of Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe in the P.F. Chang’s Rock’N’Roll Marathon.

Urias, a Realty Executives agent who lives in Tempe, began training for the Tough Mudder in February when he started attending Troy Anderson’s Fat Loss Boot Camp in Tempe on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for about an hour of intense cardio and body weight training beginning at 5:30 a.m.

In the last year, Urias also has competed in the Spartan Race and Warrior Dash. They’re similar events, but he admits that the Tough Mudder requires a bit more preparation.

For those who don’t know what the Tough Mudder is, it’s a 12-mile obstacle course-based competition that involves participants crawling through water-filled tunnels, climbing ropes to scale grease-covered walls, and stumbling across the finish line after running through a forest of hanging electrical-charged wires generated by 12-volt car batteries.

Shocking? A little.

Sounds tiring if not grueling, for sure.

Tough Mudder events held across the United States are designed by British Special Forces to test one’s all-around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. As the leading company in the booming obstacle course industry — a genre that has become more of a phenomena in the last year — Tough Mudder has already challenged half a million inspiring participants worldwide. It’s also raised more than $2 million for the Wounded Warrior Project, benefitting wounded soldiers and their families, which is what the event in the East Valley will benefit.

Why is Urias doing it?

“For the challenge,” he said. “The mental and physical challenge.”

Urias admits that he’s not a “barn burner,” but simply plans to finish the Tough Mudder hours before running the 26.2-mile Chang’s marathon.

“People question, No. 1, my sanity,” Urias said. “I have every intention of finishing both competitions. The best way to be prepared is mentally. If you’re not mentally prepared, you’re not going to push yourself through it. It’s making the decision to do it and follow through with it.”

“A lot of people go through harder things, taking into consideration all of the military personnel,” Urias added.

Tough Mudder, which bills itself as a premier physical challenge, promises to punish the best of the best, no matter one’s shape, size, or level of fitness.

Slackers need not apply. At a minimum, Tough Mudder officials recommend those who dare try the event run regularly (more than twice a week, working up to five miles per run), be able to do 15 to 25 push-ups in a row, bang out 6 pull-ups in a row and swim 50 yards without stopping (although water obstacles can be skipped).

“You have to try to incorporate it into your daily life,” Urias said.

Although Urias said he’s not on any special diet, he has lost 16 pounds in the last four months while eating healthier.

Harfst, Urias’ friend, is 55. He said he will rest on Sunday after the Tough Mudder, but is continuing to egg Urias on to fare well in both events. 

“He’s an animal,” Harfst said. “If anyone can do it, he can.”

To which Urias said: “You have to be prepared for anything. Until you’ve done it, you don’t know what affect it’s going to have on you. The proof will be in the pudding when I’m done.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or

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