The Tough Mudder is a 10 mile (or longer) race with over twenty obstacles designed by ex-British Special Forces guys with a sick sense of humor. The point is not to get a fast time or even to win; in fact there are no clocks anywhere on the course, and they don’t use a timing chip like they do for most running events. The goal is to finish – ideally in one piece.
As previously mentioned, they made us climb a wall to get to the starting line.
Starting at 8am, they sent groups out every twenty minutes, until noon or so (not sure, so don’t quote me on that). They gather you up, make you kneel in the mud and give you a pep talk. A solid mixture of, “you guys are awesome and can do this if you stick together,” and “be careful, this is the toughest Tough Mudder course we have ever seen,” with a little bit of inspirational Wounded Warrior talk mixed in. The pep talker was good, I have to hand it to him, I was “hoorah-ing” at the top of my little be-glittered lungs. The national anthem was sung, and we were off, swarming up the hill, because it started with a hill into the unknown (a little dramatic, I know, but I can’t help it.)
From here on out I could bore you all with a lot of little details, but that would be, well, boring. So I’ll just hit the highlights.
Mom caught up with us at the Arctic Enema, which is basically a big pool filled with colored water and ice. That’s right, ice. I don’t think anything can prepare a person for what happens when they jump in a giant ice bath. The wind gets knocked out of you, your heart rate sky rockets, and you well, freeze up. And then if getting in isn’t bad enough, you actually have to go under water to get beneath this wall that is halfway between the getting in and getting out. Like I said, sick sense of humor. It’s Vermont. It’s May. The sun is not out, and they force you to go under water with ICE IN IT!!!!!
And then once you are out, you start back up a hill. This one was call The Death March, and it was really crummy. So I will pause here and say that the most challenging thing about this whole event was the hills. I guess I should have known better, it being at a ski slope and all. Still, I thought they would level it out at some point, but nope, we were either going up or down, or completing an obstacle. And basically every obstacle was preceded by a huge climb or a treacherous descent and each obstacle was followed by more of the same. At some point during the first or second huge climb, teammate Matt said, “I think this is going to be the steepest part.” I was pretty pissed later when I figured out that he had lied to me.
After some hills, we hit our next obstacle which was our first brush with mud, Kiss of Mud, which entailed crawling through mud under barbed wire. There were safety wires between you and the barbed wire, and we all made it through okay, and then off up another hill. The next two obstacles were not bad: Spider’s Web and Devil’s Beard, one was climbing a rope thing and then other was going under a rope thing, and they were surprisingly devoid of mud.
The next one was Trench Warfare. I am not going to lie. This sucked. They dug trenches in the ground, covered them with plywood and then covered the ply wood with dirt so it really was like you were crawling though tunnels, and they put a turn in the trench so once you were in it, you had no sense of when it was going to be over. AND of course it was filled with mud, and rocks. Spectacular. I tried to convince Craig to go in first, but he wouldn’t. I think he was worried that he would have to shove me out from behind. Luckily the dude in front of me was cracking somewhat inappropriate jokes the entire way which kept me from losing it. (It also helped that Craig refrained from cracking bug jokes, I know he was thinking about it. I may be a Mudder, but I don’t do bugs.)
We were so nasty after this one that we actually stopped at a mountain stream to wash off a little and then we were off to the first set of Berlin Walls, which were cake (especially since I had two teammates to boost me over) and then Bale Bonds, climbing over hay (also super easy), all interspersed with hills of course.
We didn’t see our spectators until the Electric Eel. During the pep talk at the start, they make it clear that if there is an obstacle you can’t do, just go around it. I was seriously considering skipping this one. Wires that are hooked up to a car battery, hanging over a pool of water that you have to crawl through on your belly. Something about the combination of water and electricity just seems like a bad, bad plan. However, Mom was there to talk me through it and I slithered on my belly avoiding most of the zaps, surrounded by a chorus of expletives from those being shocked, and had the added benefit of being a little cleaner at the end of it! I don’t seem to have any pictures of the Electric Eel, but Mom had started filming by then:
And then, you guessed it. Up another hill.
Dong Dangler came next, and I didn’t even attempt to do the hanging upside from the rope thing, I just hopped in and swam across the dumb pond. The poor girl in front of me needed to get rescued, the water was so cold it took her breath away about half way across. The water was cold even with out ice in it; May in Vermont is not warm.
The half way point obstacle-wise was Cliff Hanger. Ugh. I know I keep talking about hills, but this was straight up a really steep ski slope, like so steep most people had to take it on all fours, and so steep that if I had found myself at the top of it during my skiing days I would have refused to ski down it (I was not the daredevil type). This was where people started cramping up in a big way. I stopped along the way to help a guy with a huge quad cramp. I think this is where being a distance runner really started to help. The Tough Mudder website says that you really only need to be able to run an hour straight to be able to complete the course. Whether it’s different for Vermont or not, I don’t know, but neither Craig, Matt, or I ran into endurance issues. Our last two trail runs during training were two hours each and almost ten miles so our legs were at least a little prepared for this event.