On Christmas Day, you can catch 33-year-old Manhasset resident Stefanie Bishop cartwheeling across the finish line of what she says is one of the most rigorous obstacle courses ever created.
At 2 p.m. CBS will air “World’s Toughest Mudder,” chronicling a 24-hour race set on a five-mile looped course, with 20 grueling obstacles to overcome along the way. Unpredictable weather conditions and desert terrain also came into play during the event, which took place in Las Vegas on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The "Mudder" consisted of 1,500 athletes of all skill levels from across the globe, and Bishop won the women’s category by finishing 17 laps and 85 miles of the course in 24 hours.
Bishop, who was born and raised in Manhasset, attended Portledge School in Locust Valley, where she participated in cross country, fencing, lacrosse and boys soccer, because there wasn’t a girls team at the time.
“My coaches in school encouraged me to push and test my limits,” she said. “They saw talent and they just wanted to see me succeed.”
Bishop has competed in ultra-endurance competitions before, including the Peak Death Race in 2010. In that race, which took place in Pittsfield, Vermont, athletes are completely unaware of what they will be doing and how long they will be competing until after they arrive. According to Bishop, it could be anywhere from one to three days of rigorous activities. The first time she tried it, Bishop placed first among men and women. She brought that preparation and experience into “World’s Toughest Mudder.”
“There are going to be a lot of inspirational stories,” Bishop said of the CBS special. “It’s funny because the camera crew was there but I don’t remember what parts they were there for. I’m just curious. There are going to be some down moments when competitors are sick or hurting. Going through waves like that is very common.”
Bishop is accustomed to those waves, and rode quite a few of them before “World’s Toughest Mudder.” After landing a job as an equity derivatives broker on Wall Street through Joe Desena, a co-founder of the Peak Death Race, Bishop was determined to return to her athletic roots last year. A bout of Lyme disease followed by a severe foot injury put those plans on hold. Her physical therapist sidelined her, and four months later, she was still only able to run for 20 seconds at a time.
“I was riding my bike all over the North Shore because that was the only thing I could do, besides strength training,” Bishop said. “All of my focus was in 2016: 'I’m going to do it, I’m going to win it, I’m going to do whatever it takes to take me to the top.'”
Bishop said that setting small goals for herself made the healing process more bearable and faster.
Bishop said the most challenging part of the race for her occurred in the middle of the night, after a long day in the blazing heat. She had begun her training on Long Island, then finished in Colorado before heading to the race in Vegas. Bishop was still adjusting to the extreme weather differences by the time the competition began.
“At race time, I wasn’t drinking enough fluids in between each [obstacle], but I didn’t want to carry my hydration vest,” she said. “It caught up with me and I was sick to my stomach.”
Bishop believes she was suffering from dehydration and a form of heat exhaustion during the night.
“Even though it felt horrible — I felt like I was going to vomit everywhere — I just had to slow it down and get my system back in order,” she said. “It wasn’t pretty but it’s happened to me before, so I knew how to handle it.”
Bishop found her second wind after bumping into a friend of hers and walking two laps with him.
“It distracted me,” she said, “and all of a sudden, I felt better.”
Bishop will be adding "raw and real" videos to her YouTube channel in the new year to show aspiring ultra-endurance athletes how she prepared for “World’s Toughest Mudder,” and to document all of her upcoming adventures.
“2016 was the comeback year,” she said. “2017 is to show people what I’m really capable of.”