I want to start out with a little background story on my previous views of Tough Mudder. Early on in the year, March maybe, Tyler decided he was going to do Tough Mudder in September. We were talking about it at his mom’s house, and I distinctly remember telling her that I had “absolutely no desire” to do it, whatsoever. And I didn’t. Maybe a 5k Warrior Dash, but never the Tough Mudder. I was working out, but nothing intense, and I wasn’t able to run two miles straight, let alone 12. Finally, a week or two later, I decided that I was going to set this as a goal for myself to get into shape. I still didn’t really want to do it, mainly because of the distance of the course. Over the next few months, I worked my ass off at the gym, supplemented with extra running here and there, and got my diet back in check. I also started watching more videos of the obstacles online, and got progressively more and more pumped about it. The time finally came yesterday, and unlike the first attempt, we were actually about to run it!!!!!! Read through for our amazing experience!
We went up to Philadelphia the night before, hung out with my love Erin, ate the best gluten-free pizza of my life, and hardly got any sleep because my dog was being her usual insane self. The lovely Caveman’s Man, Sean, arrived late that night and crashed where we were staying. We woke up at 7am to get a bigass breakfast, and I’m so glad we did. That was the only meal we had until well after 10pm.
We arrived at our parking area around 10am, and hopped on the bus for a 40-minute ride to the location. All of a sudden, someone yells “there is is!!!!” and everyone started screaming. Holy fuck. Hundreds of little warriors running over this crazy terrain, covered head to toe in brown mud. From then on, everyone was screaming and shouting and “hoo-rah”-ing, and it was the best pump-up ever.
We checked in, bought some swag (to make sure we actually would follow through with it), probably should have gotten a little something else to eat, dropped our bags at bag drop and then headed to the starting line. I guess before I go into the details of the race, I should point out how absolutely amazed I was with how smoothly everything went, compared to last time. Check-in was a breeze, bag drop was organized, there were plenty of busses to move everyone from parking lot to on-site, and everything just went smooth as butter.
The three of us headed to the starting line, hopped over the practice Berlin Wall, and were just in time to participate in the Tough Mudder pledge, give a bunch of “hoo-rah”‘s, jump up and down a whole bunch, and then the bigass monster truck peeled out ahead of us and it was time to run off after it!
The first stretch was a longgg run to reach Arctic Enema. The sun was beating down hard, and it was hot. It felt really great: adrenaline pumping, cheering on each other, checking out costumes and then all of a sudden, there was Arctic Enema. I was really warm so I was “ready” for it. I say “ready” because I had no idea what I was talking about. I have never in my LIFE felt something that extreme before. The three of us jumped in at the same time, and as I went under, I could feel my whole body starting to slow down. I came above water, and I could barely move. There was so much ice on the other side, and it was a race again’t the clock until my muscles completely stopped functioning. I pulled as hard as I physically could, to the point of yelling, trying to get myself out. And all of a sudden, there was Tyler on the other side of the wall, reaching out to me and yelling “COME ON, YOU GOT THIS” and I got to the edge where he helped pull me out. Our bodies were moving in slow motion. After walking for about a minute or so to get warmed back up, we went right back into running, and ran to Mud Mile.
Mud Mile was AWESOME. Probably my favorite obstacle of the whole course. Hill after hill after hill of slippery mud, with huge trenches between them, full of muddy, chest deep water. You’d slide down one hill into the water, wade about 4 steps, and then try to climb up the next. Then repeat, forever. I don’t even know how many there were, but it went on forever! It was so much fun though, and such a great way to start off the next leg.
Berlin Walls 1 was a breeze, as were Kiss of Mud, and Balls to the Wall. Then we came to a swimming obstacle, Pirate’s Booty, where we swam across a lake in some chilly water. It was a nice break on our legs from running, and I love swimming, so this was great. We pulled ourselves along with the ropes that were there, to give our legs even more of a break. Climbed up a big rope net about 15-feet to get out of the water, ran through Fire Walker (which was REALLY lame, just two big fires on either side of the course) and hit Electric Eel.
People were getting zapped left and right at Electric Eel. Screams, gasps, cursing, spasming, and lots of laughing. I watched a few females go through it fast as bullets, and watched a handful of men get zapped and stop dead in their tracks, only to get shocked again. Sean went through first, and got hit really hard a couple times. Tyler got ready to go and got zapped by one of the first wires and sat back up laughing about it. I literally was doubting whether I was going to be able to do it. Then, there was a window where the path I wanted to take was completely open, and I had that brief moment of “I’m going to do this.” Before giving myself time to second guess anything, I dove in, and HAULED ASS across the ground without stopping. I had a couple really good zaps, and took one to the right trap/shoulder that I think is still causing me some grief today. I probably crossed it in less than 5 seconds. Tyler came across very soon after, we all moaned for a minute, and then we took off running again, into the most insane stretch of mud and woods and shoe-sucking sticky terrain.
Sometime around here, we came across the “WARRIOR DASH FINISH” sign, which boasts “If this were the Warrior Dash, you’d be done by now. But this is TOUGH MUDDER. You are only getting started.” Come this time, we were all feeling so great, very proud of how we were faring, and I think we were just over 45 minutes in. While running through the woods, we talked about how this was the best thing we have ever done, how excited we were do be doing this, how much fun we were having, and how good we felt so far. Tyler’s calf cramped up at one point, so we stopped to stretch for a minute of so, but that’s about all.
We came to Underwater Tunnels, waded into the water, and swam underneath some big blue barrels. I got lake water in my brain one the first one, snorted and coughed for a minute, and then went back to it. The water got progressively shallower until the last one, where there was only about three feet of clearance between the lake floor and the top of the barrel. With all of the running through the woods and shade, this is the point we started to get a little chilly. Hanging Tough was right around the corner, and it was back into the water for all three of us, because the damn rings were slippery as all hell. The second ring was also really far away from the first, so I was only able to get my fingers around it, without a solid grip. Then it was another super shaded, cool run to Ladder to Hell, which would have been scary I guess if you were afraid of heights, but it was easy-peasey for us. At this point, we figured out we were around mile-marker 7. We had run the entire way, for 7 miles, only stopping for obstacles. Holy crap. Never in my life thought I’d comfortably do that.
We jogged over to Smoke Chute, which was the next of the mentally challenging obstacles for me. Imagine a waterslide, but when you get to the top, you look over the edge and it’s literally a 90-degree drop straight down, and a curve at the bottom that shoots you into the water. I didn’t even know how to go about getting down. Tyler thankfully was RIGHT behind me, climbed up with me, and suggested lowering myself down a little so the impact wouldn’t be too bad at the bottom. He told me I could do it and to just go slow, and I did it! It was terrifying but so much fun and I probably would have done it again if we weren’t for the fact that we had other things to do!
Right around here, Tyler’s hip started hurting really badly, Sean’s calves were starting to cramp, and I was fucking freezing. From this point on, we walked at a quick pace. Or in Tyler’s case, limped. Since I was so cold, I wanted to keep running, but I’m actually glad that they were both hurting because I think I was so loaded with adrenaline that I didn’t realize how bad of an idea that would have been, seeing how sore I was at the end of the race, even with about 3-4 miles of walking. We got to Peg Leg and saw 3 people on stretchers and one person getting pulled out of the water screaming, and decided that we would do what most people were now doing, which was just jumping into the water and wading across, instead of trying to traverse the slippery logs that were taking seriously casualties. It just wasn’t worth attempting it, seeing that many people severely injured.
From there we made it to Twinkle Toes, which was easy for me because I have good balance. I was so damn cold by this point that falling in the water just wasn’t an option. Of course, this was followed by Funky Monkey, and I fell in because they first three rungs were completely caked with slick mud, and I only saw one person make it across. Actually, this was the same with Hanging Tough, only saw one badass make it across. Then came Boa Constrictor. This is the obstacle that I had been dreading. I talked with Tyler because I was so cold and I didn’t want to get back into water, and he said that he thought I would be really disappointed in myself if I had skipped it. He was right. So I said eff it, and did it. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I expected it to be, and I made it out fine, but again, really cold. Right next to this was Walk the Plank, a 15-foot jump into the water below. I was shaking so hard at this point that I could hardly form sentences, and couldn’t function well enough to work the waterproof disposable camera I had with me. I made the decision to skip this obstacle. I’ve been cliff jumping. I’ve jumped into water 25-feet below me, not knowing whether or not the water really was deep enough, or if I’d get out far enough to not hit the rocks below. I’ve done it. And this just wasn’t the time to do a more tame version of that. I am pretty hard on myself in general, but I’m totally okay with the fact that I skipped this one.
We hit Trench Warfare, the other obstacle that I was dreading because of the mental aspect. I had Sean in front of me and Tyler behind me, Sean said where the turns were, and we came out the other side, no problem. Conquered that fear as well. From here, we knew it was the home stretch. There were only four more obstacles and a little over two miles between us and the finish line. Berlin Walls 2 was a total slippery shitshow, but with Sean and Tyler’s help I made it up and over. I hurt my heels pretty bad landing on the other side, but I’m surprised that was all. Tyler put me on his back for the Wounded Warrior Carry, which was hilarious since he was the one limping with a busted hip, and then we were facing Everest.
We each tried more than 5 times to get up, but the people at the top just weren’t on it. We were able to get their hands at every try, but couldn’t get our legs up, or it was just one guy trying to get me up and we couldn’t make it happen. It seemed like the only people getting up were either super diesel guys who didn’t need any help, or big team groups who had four or five people at the top to help their teammates. The key really was to just keep running and not jump at all, which was surprising to me. We headed to Electroshock Therapy, ran as hard and fast as we could through, but I was the only out of the three of us that got zapped. We all held hands and ran our asses to the finishline, and were presented with our orange headbands. The glorious trophy of our pains and struggles. I’ve never been more proud to own a sweatband before in my life. Of course, I started crying with the biggest smile on my face. So proud of us. I believe we finished a little over 4 hours, which isn’t bad considering the last 5 or so miles were all walked.
Got our free tshirts, our free beers, some mylar emergency heat blankets, and huddled under a space heater for a bit. I was so cold that I couldn’t even drink more than three or four sips of the beer that I had been looking forward to for months (first one in more than 5 years!!!), so I ditched it. Tyler and Sean went to hose off, and I just slowly replaced wet clothing with dry warm clothing beneath my heat blanket, which made a world of a difference.
Oops, I forgot to mention, there were 5 First Aid/Water stations along the course. The first one had just water, the second one had bananas, the third had Sharkie energy chews (which I had actually brought on my own, and are my favorite!), the fourth had more bananas, and the fifth just had water. This was awesome. I attribute my success to those little stops. The bananas helped keep me from cramping up, the water kept my hydrated, and the Sharkies gave me a boost and warmed me up. We headed to the bus and rode the long (and off-course) ride back to our lot, and then walked forever to get to where we parked. We drove back to Philadelphia to get our stuff and drop Sean at his car, then headed home. We didn’t get back until 2:30am, showered, and finally crashed after 3am. What a long day!!!
I am so unbelievably proud of how we did, as a team and as individuals. Sean was always willing to charge ahead in front for every obstacle, and for the mentally-challenging ones he was always on the other side ahead of me, waiting for us. No fear in that man. Tyler knew just what to say when I was getting a little weary or freaked, and knew exactly when to push me. He also did most of the race with striking pain in his hip, and a huge gash on his hand. I completed obstacles that terrified me, ran longer then I ever have in my life and felt like I could have gone longer (does this mean I finally passed that “wall” during a run, when all of a sudden it feels like you can run forever?), used strength I didn’t know I had, and beasted out on some tough obstacles. I couldn’t have asked for better, more supportive teammates, and it seemed like we were all pretty much at the same level (except for Tyler having super long legs and taking one stride for every 3 or 4 of ours, which made him have to slow down a little). It was so amazing. I had more fun than I could have imagined having at something so physically taxing. I know it’s not the end-all-be-all of fitness testing, but this was the REASON that I ramped up my training and decided to get in the best shape of my life. This has been my goal for the past 6+ months, and I fucking conquered it with my boyfriend and my best friend. Holy crap. Perfect way to spend a Saturday.
I took pictures with a disposable waterproof camera throughout the course (kind of, kept forgetting about it!) so I need to get those developed as soon as possible and post them! I definitely recommend carrying one if you’re going to be doing Tough Mudder any time soon! So many great photo-ops!
I will write a less-detailed, more review-y post about Tough Mudder at some point this week hopefully, because I have a lot to say about that as well. Also check in with the Caveman’s Man, because I’m sure he’s cooking up a post that is way more entertaining than this one!