Tough Mudder Recap

Geez, where does one even begin. My day started at 5 this morning. We headed south to get to the shuttle to TM. I met my team, none of whom I knew except a friend and her boyfriend. It seemed like minutes before we were climbing the first wall into the start area. Yeah, you have to climb a 12′ wall just to start the race. I shouldn’t really call it a race. It isn’t. There is no timing, unless you time yourself. You are there to enjoy yourself and help your fellow mudders. As we hopped up and down while the MC started hollering I felt more adrenaline than I have in a while. Little did I know what TM had in store for us. We started and the initial 100 yard is run chasing a monster truck. From there is was a steady run up to the Arctic Enema. Yeah, it is about how it sounds. You jump into a 40 yard dumpster filled with ice and dyed water. You duck under the center partition and drag your completely frozen ass out. It is a challenge, since every muscle in your body has now decided to stop listening. It isn’t really fear that freezes you, it is the actual 32 degree water. The body just stops moving entirely. I made it out and we continued a steady run for about 3/4 mile before the mud began.

When I say mud, I mean slippery, thick, impossible to get your feet out of mud. Just staying upright was difficult. We began descending and ascending in and out of a series of trenches (Mud Mile). To get into them you had to literally slide on your ass into waist deep mud and water. There was no sense of how deep or shallow the water was. So you just had to let go and trust your feet to find the bottom. Then get your footing and slog across the trench and claw your way up the other bank. It was freezing and difficult to manage, but we made it thru without any mishap. By this point, mile 2, our team was stretched out. There was no way to stand still without freezing so we continued on. This would be the way the entire rest of the day went. I happened to end up with the two people I knew. I ran on into the next section of the course, a motorbike track (Balls to the Wall). Steep hills, so slippery mudders had to make human chains to get people up them. The mud was so slick. The downhills were as steep. I saw plenty of people get hurt, so I really took my time and got up and down safely as possible. It was a good cardio workout. This section seemed to take forever, but it was only about an hour. We had also done the military crawl under the barbed wire 8″ above us. It is hard to get that low and get any purchase in the slippery plastic and mud. We had out first water break and continued on. At this point we were about 35 minutes ahead of the rest of the team. Any thought of stopping to wait were gone. We were cold enough it just didn’t make any sense to stand still. Even though the day was sunny and beautiful there was a breeze and the ice cold water and mud just made it frigid.The first set of Berlin Walls came up. There is no way I can run and jump and pull myself up over a 12 foot wall. But with a little help we all got over them with no problem. We faced the swim across the lake next. They had ropes with some floats but by the time a line of people grabbed them, they sank quite a ways under. The water temp was probably in the low 40’s. Cold enough that I didn’t want to stay in it long. I started swimming. To heck with the rope. As I got to the  25 yard mark I realized just how hard it is to swim fully dressed and in shoes. Wow. I am a strong swimmer. But even I realized that between the cold and the current I was going to have to find that rope again. By 50 yards I was in these nasty weeds. They water was kicked up enough it resembled the portajohns. Yuck….As we got to the other side there was a 20′ ascent of a platform by rope. I was treading water in the weeds watching this painfully slow process. There were a lot of people in the same position, Freezing cold and burning a lot of energy. You couldn’t reach the bottom. It was the first time a little bit of fear came over me. I finally was done and went all the way to the end and climbed the wood platform. Forget freezing and waiting. I made it out.  From there we continued running and quickly crossed thru the burning sections (FireWalker). It was a welcome warm up. The running was still easy, and I felt very much in control. As much as I fight to control my breathing while training, on the course it all just clicked. I was feeling very confident. Then I looked at the Electric Eel obstacle. I was a bit hesitant. I don’t like getting zapped by the fence here at home on the farm. I really didn’t want to get into water on my belly and crawl thru it. But I went ahead. I was doing great until the guy in front of me paused. He got zapped and the current travelled thru the water and into me. It was a nice jolt.

The woods section came up next. This was about as filthy and gross as you can get. The mud was almost black. We had sections in there that we were up to our waists. It was impossible to run much in this section. Roots and holes were everywhere. One of the easiest ways to not finish is to hurt and ankle. I kept that well in mind throughout. Every time I set down a foot I made sure it was secure. It was brutal on running form, since you had to stare at the ground and effectively hunch over. But I did not want to get hurt, We continued through the woods, still quite cold from the swim. In the open sections they added obstacles. We came to a pond where they had set up a series of barrels (Underwater Tunnels). Each row secured together. You had to swim and duck under each barrel. You had an open section between each to come up for air before you dropped down to swim under the next. I climbed down in the mud to make my way to the first barrel. Again, you could not touch the bottom. You had to swim. As I saw the first barrel come up I glanced at the life guard sitting to my left. I wonder why he was so carefully watching. I dropped under the water and kicked hard to get under the weighted barrel. As soon as I opened my eyes this all out panic grabbed me. Holy shit. It was dark as hell in the muddy kicked up water. All I wanted to do was hit the surface, but I couldn’t I was still under the barrel. I kicked as hard as I could and exploded out of the water on the other side. My heart was pounding and I was shaking, I had just come face to face with a fear I didn’t even know existed. It is amazing how disorienting dark water can be. Especially when you know you are under something. I was now facing the next barrel. I had to swim a couple of strokes over to it. I steeled myself and dropped down again. Same fear, same pounding heart. I came up again. knowing I had to face one more barrel. There is no way out of that obstacle once you commit. Barbwire is overhead, and on the sides. Well, I had done two. I convinced myself I could do another. The fear was no less. As I pulled my shaking body out of the pond I marvelled at the fear I had just experienced. It isn’t like I haven’t had some fear in my life. I have. It isn’t often I come across one I didn’t know I had. We continued running and came up to the rings (Hangin Tough).

To get across the rings you have to basically swing like tarzan. They are spaced well apart. Too far for most women. I saw maybe one or two even get past the first two. If you fell you dropped into a pit of muddy water. The rings were suspended about 8′ above this filthy pit. The trail got very congested, as this obstacle came up right after the water station. It was in the shade, and we had just come out of the frigid lake. I chose to go around this one and stand in the sun. Not that it was much warmer. I cheered on my friends. They both ended up in the muddy pit. TM greases certain rings. Few people make it. Most end up in the pit. We continued running thru the woods. I quickly lost my teammates. My body just wanted to go. I was so cold, I think it realized it would stop functioning if I slowed down at all. It was about a mile before I broke out of the woods into the opening. I had come up on a woman walking in the woods. I gave her a pat on the back and urged her on. She ran with me out of the woods. It was beautiful. The sun shining. All the spectators watching and cheering. A huge timber structure (Ladder to Hell)  loomed next. I was looking up at it when I realized the lady I had helped was cheering me on. It was so nice. The structure was set up to climb from one rail to the next, with about a body length or more between them. Note that we are all soaking wet and muddy. All the timbers were muddy and slippery. I just started climbing. My the fourth section I realized just how tall this thing was. At the top you had to carefully get yourself over and start the descent. It was a dangerous obstacle, especially for the women. The wood spacing was for a man. We had to stretch to find our footing. Carefully I climbed down and found my partner relaxing under a tree 🙂 We talked for a minute while my teammates arrived. I was feeling great. This was almost midway. Body felt good. A little tight, but well within myself as we continued.

I had no idea what to expect when I saw this bizarre wood obstacle come up. I just keep seeing people get spit out the other side into a pit of muddy water. And they are coming out fast, like someone had shot them out of a cannon. Hmmm. It wasn’t until I ran around to the other side that I realized you had to climb up to a platform. (Smoke Chute) I was feeling great when I pulled myself up to the top. 20′ or so. At the top there were a series of cubbies. Each person went to one. It looked like stepping into a wood closet, but this was no closet. This had no floor. If you stepped in you free fell until you made contact with the slide and it then spit you out into the mud/ water pit. The opening at the bottom looked impossibly close. All it looked like was a sure fire way to get killed. I looked over the edge. holy shit. No way….I was petrified. The guy working looked at me. I said to him “is this safe?” He replied “yeah if you keep your head back”… jesus….I was about to get decapitated on this sick free fall chute of plywood…..Needless to say I stepped forward, put my feet over and let go. It sounds so simple- just let go. But that truly is what it is, to relinquish that fear. To look it in the face and chose to do it anyway. As I free fell before my body launched out into the muck, I felt like I was amazing. Yeah, me. The one that fights with my mind everyday. Where everything is an effort and my life sometimes seems unlivable. Yeah, that person. I did the terrifying, and I survived. I had not even gotten to the obstacle that I thought might give me trouble. I didn’t even know about this one. I pulled myself out of the muck and felt as big as I had ever been. In a life where seeming small dominates, this was tremendous.

We continued on, freezing and covered from head to toe in mud. The next obstacle (Peg Legs) was causing so many injuries we hopped in and waded rather than attempt the walk across the logs set upright in a pit of water. The tops of the logs were covered in mud. The goal was to hop from log to log and make it across the pit. Unfortunately the spacing was far enough that nobody could just step across. Each top was coated in slick heavy mud. Most who jumped slid right off and landed in the log with some part of their body. They got hurt. I saw no point in getting injured, so we endured waist high muck as people fell all around us. We clawed our way out. I was still feeling super human from the Smoke Chute jump. We got to the balance beam over the water (Twinkle Toes). I had attempted to practice at the local park for this one. The playground had a balance beam 6” off the ground. I fell off all the times I tried. I was not looking forward to trying twinkle toes. This obstacle is set over water. The beams are 20′ across. You have to walk across and balance or fall off into the pit. I watched as people fell in. I was questioning myself a bit, but was still on such a high from the chute that I stepped up. As I took the first step out I found myself go to a weird zen type of place. Nothing around me registered. I found a spot across the way and focused. I never looked down, or heard anything. I just placed each foot, knees bent and back bent with arms out. I made it across. I never even imagined I could do that. I was so fired up at that point. You could have asked me to base jump or walk in a cage with a tiger, hell I would have climbed everest….I felt unstoppable. I felt incredible. I felt alive. Every cell in my body was working and firing to allow me to do things I had never even considered possible.

The Funky Monkey was next. Essentially the same monkey bars you had as a kid on the playground, except these were over a pit of water. They also ascended to a peak and then descended. I forgot to add they have about a foot and a half spacing between and some are greased. Yeah, another dunk in the freezing cold muddy water pit. As I climbed out I was getting a bit tight. We were well into the course at this point. Maybe 8 miles or so. We took off running. I clicked right into my training pace and lost my buddies again. There was the dreaded Boa Constrictor. I had dreamt about this damn thing. This one consists of drainage pipes (the kind you see under roads- black ridged plastic) they slope down into a water pit and then ascend up out of the pit. As you crawl down the first tube the water level in this dark black pipe rises. By the end of the first tube you are under water. Scary as hell. As you crawl out of the tube to face the next one there is no way out the entire area above you is barbed wire. There is no panic and get the fuck out. You commit and you are in. I was looking at the thing and thinking I have to go around when my teammates showed up. I was talked into it. I’m sure the high from the previous chute and balance beam helped. I slid into the pipe. It is dark and all you see at the end is that sliver of light above the water filling the tube. It is slippery and hard to get a purchase. All you can do is wedge your elbow into each ridge and pull your body weight forward. As the water level reached my chin I was starting to panic. But once your in, your in. I took a breath and ducked under the water as I clawed my way free of the first tube. I surfaced under the barbed wire looking at the next tube out. This one was hard. It was on an incline and there was no purchase to be found. There was so much water and mud. I got about halfway and started sliding back. I was trying to tell myself to stay calm and not freak out when some friendly guy stuck his head in and asked if I needed help. I nodded and he slide in and started pulling me out. Thank god for a friendly mudder! I was shaking from that one and the cold was taking its toll. I was still soaked from the money bars. I was about to get a whole lot wetter.

Walk the plank loomed on the horizon as we ran. This is a large platform jump into water. Most people say it is 15′. I can assure you it is not. The climb up the 25′ is holding on to slats of wood. They are wet and slippery and muddy. I saw people get hurt badly on this one as well. You had to hold on with finger tips and toes to crawl up the platform. Once on the top there was a marine yelling to line up. 3..2..1..jump. This repeated. I hate heights. But I did as I was told. 3…2…1…I jumped off. Even from only 25′ you hit the water hard. I came up in the muddy water and swam across to pull myself out. I was now completely frozen. Every part of my body was starting to refuse to work. I had been fighting with tightness in my one quad and in my back, but now it was just all out battle to get moving. We all got ourselves shook off and started running, much to our bodies dismay. It was a very short run to Trench Warfare. This was my most dreaded obstacle. It involves underground tunnels in the dark. I hate close confined spaces. I paced back and forth and finally just said fuck it. How bad could it be after all I had endured over the past 11 miles. I dropped to my knees and slid into the dark. I thought it was a straight tunnel, nope, it made a 90 degree turn a short way in. My heart dropped. Holy shit, is this some crazy underground maze? But I saw no other mudders, so I quickly figured they must be individual tunnels. I was crawling over rocks and gravel. My knees and elbows were taking a beating. I rounded the next bend and saw the light. Thankful to see that I crawled out into the sunshine. We were almost there. It was a short run to see Everest. This obstacle is one of the toughest. Mainly because it involves sprinting and then jumping to grab the lip of the quarter pipe. It is vertical and it is slippery. Between the mud, and some greased spots, it takes a lot of work. I stood there assessing who was at the top. A couple guys made eye contact and I waved. I started sprinting, but eased up when I realized how steep it was. Bad move. I fell short. I knew I had to go all out and just run as hard as I could. I picked myself up off the ground and tried it again. This time I got closer but fell a hand length short of the guys. I was exhausted. Again I slid to the bottom and picked myself up. In all I made six tries at Everest. On fifth I slid to the bottom and beat on the damn thing in frustration. I had so little energy left, and my muscles were so tight. It is near impossible to sprint without the cooperation of the muscles. I once more stood staring up at this thing. It may well have been Everest (for real). I knew this was it. I had nothing left if I missed this time. I ran for all I was worth and made it into the hands of two guys. I was now dangling from the edge trying to pull myself up. It took a minute but I finally found myself sprawled on the top of the platform. I was completely spent. Had absolutely nothing left. I barely remember climbing down and running thru the last obstacle. All I could see was that finish line and a blaze orange headband. We joined hands and ran into the hundreds of dangling wires (Electroshock Therapy). I slipped and fell but thankfully did not get shocked.

There I was frozen and sore but I was thrilled. I had done it. We had done it! They put that headband on and handed me a beer and a shiny metallic heat sheet. It wasn’t running 12 miles. It wasn’t facing “the toughest course on earth”. It was facing my fear and doing it anyway. It was finding fears I never knew I had and doing it. It was reaching the bottom of what my body thought it could do and finding a little more.  When people talk about heart, that is what they are saying. It is about mental toughness and tenacity. In all I have been thru in my life, I have always doubted how tough I am. Yesterday I proved to myself I am tough. I can do whatever I put my mind to. There is no quit in here….Hoo-rah.

 

 

 

 

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