Abel Gonzalez, left, a junior at UHV, is training for the Toughest Mudder competition later this month in New Jersey. Above, the 20--year-old trains six days a week for the competition, in which contestants try to run an obstacle course as many times as possible in a 24-hour period.
PHOTOS: Abel Gonzalez, Victoria's Toughest Mudder
UHV junior Abel Gonzalez trains six days a week for the upcoming Toughest Mudder competition in New Jersey, where competitors run the course as many times as they can in a 24-hour period for cash prizes.
The hundreds of contestants in face paint and bandanas who line up at starting line of a race all have the same goal: to finish first. As they mentally prepare themselves for the upcoming start some start to realize the task that lies ahead.
On the 10-mile course ahead lays several daunting obstacles. There are walls as high as 12 feet, ditches full of mud, water tubs filled with ice water, rope ladders, trenches and electrified paths.
The Tough Mudder competition is no joke, and yet, its one Abel Gonzalez embraces.
"The thing that motivates me the most is all the doubters saying I can't do it," said Gonzalez, a native of Victoria. "Especially for my size, they see me and doubt me from the beginning. So I actually strive off of that energy to work and push harder than I can imagine."
Gonzalez competed in the 2012 Tough Mudder competition in Austin just over a month ago, and qualified to run in World's Toughest Mudder 2012 on Nov. 17 and 18, a worldwide competition with the sole purpose of finding the best of the best. In his qualifying run, Gonzalez ran in two hours and 17 minutes when the competition was held in Austin.
Tough Mudder events are obstacle courses that range in 10-12 miles and are designed by British Special Forces that tests a person's all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. It also raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project and has raised more than $3.7 million to date, according to its website.
Gonzalez, a 20-year old student at UHV, first ran in a competition when it was held in Edna earlier this year.
"I had to look up what it was," Gonzalez joked. "I always wanted to do something like this. So, I said yes and we did the one in Edna, but it was a team effort."
Those who compete in a Tough Mudder competition can do so either by themselves or with a team. Competing with a team didn't make the course any easier, but the thought of doing the entire course alone was intriguing to Gonzalez.
"This looks pretty interesting," he said.
This past October, when Tough Mudder came to Austin, Gonzalez ran the 10-mile course by himself. He finished in just over two hours. He was proud to have done it by himself, but admits there were some tough times.
"There was only one obstacle that I had trouble with. You're at the bottom of this huge mud pile and there's no way you can get up by yourself," Gonzalez said. "It's a big ditch of mud and you have to make a chain of people to help pick you up."
The World's Toughest Mudder competition won't have teams, just individuals. The run starts on Nov. 17 and finishes 24 hours later. The goal is to run the course as many times as possible in the span of one day. Breaks and rest periods are allowed, but, like Gonzalez said, that won't win you the $15,000 prize.
"You can take breaks if you want, but if you want to win, I suggest you keep going and don't stop," Gonzalez said. "That's what I plan on doing."
Gonzalez is currently working out six days of the week with his lone rest day on Saturday. Monday through Friday is devoted to lifting weights and running on a track. Sundays Gonzalez can usually be found in a parking garage, running up the long, steep ramps.
He also takes extremely cold showers and plans to begin running very, very early in the morning in order to get used to the cold temperatures. He'll also be running in a wet suit soon.
"I've never done that," Gonzalez said about the wet suit. "It's going to be wet and rainy. It's not mandatory, but was a suggestion to wear one."
It hasn't been easy to train for the competition, but with friends and family supporting him, it's been a little bit easier.
"There are some friends that like to train with me because they know I'll go all out and sometimes will say I kill them," Gonzalez said. "All of my friends and family are motivating and helping me get prepared."