If I had to describe Tough Mudder in 2 words, the nicest version would be “holy hell”. If you don’t already know what it is, Tough Mudder is an adventure-style race. It’s generally 10-12 miles, littered with obstacles. And the obstacles are crazy.
Laura and I were on a 4 person team, “Birthday Cake”, as it was one team-member’s birthday. Beside Laura and I, the other two ladies on the team (Buffy and Erinn) are women we know through Columbia Athletic Club, the gym we go to. Well, actually, one of the ladies on our team is a trainer at Columbia, who Laura sees regularly, and who I’ve been working with once a week since the “spring challenge” starting in April. Anyway, back to the
Here’s a helpful map:
The Seattle course turned out to be 12 miles (not the 11 stated on the map), with 2 “surprise” obstacles that they wouldn’t announce beforehand. The map shows a bunch of obstacles that we didn’t have, but is missing some that we did have. The notable ones (not in any particular order):
- Artic Enema. The 2nd obstacle of the day, after crawling through some mud under some barbed wire. Picture a long dumpster filled with ice water. Then, just before the race starts, picture a fork lift dumping a crate of ice in to top it off. Then, halfway across the dumpster, put a wall that extends down into the ice water. Then place barbed wire over the top of the wall, forcing you to go under to get through. The wall was surprising low, and I just can’t explain the feeling I had as I went under the wall and got stuck. I had about 2 seconds of panic as I realized my camelbak got stuck on the lip of the wall. Then, swim up and the rest of the ice filled dumpster and climb out. 5 minutes in, frozen, and freaked out 🙂
- shocks on the rocks. belly crawl through water+muck, with live electrical wires dangling down. this one wasn’t too bad, as I could stay low, push off, and slide across the mostly smooth plastic flooring covered in muddy water. if it had been rocks, this would have been hell. I only got shocked a few times, and they were in the hips, making my whole leg seize up. crazy.
- Berlin walls 1 & 2. Vertical wood walls 12 feet tall, in pairs. there’s one foothold at the bottom, maybe 2-3 feet off the ground. I got used as a ladder for this one, boosting people up by doing a wall sit, then having people step on my thigh, then shoulder to get to the top. I managed to get over them myself, with a quick hop up and off the foothold, and pulling myself up and over. There was also a 3rd wall challenge, where you had to climb some logs first, and kind of jump from the last log to the wall, then climb over.
- Funky Monkey & Rings. Funky monkey is a set of monkey bars that follows the slope of a roof. the first half is ascending, then the second half descending, probably 5 bars on each side. and the bars spin in the holes. If you can’t hang on, you end up in a muddy lake. On a normal day at the playground, I might be able to do this. but with the ascending/descending part, and the distance between the bars, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this one. But I took it slow, and used the spinning of the bar to my advantage. it let you hold onto the bar and let it rotate to swing, instead of having to have your (wet, muddy) hand slide on the bar. I got through this one and stayed dry. The ladies, not so much. Later on, there was another similar challenge, with rings instead of bars. Slow and steady, with a nice swing between them, and I stayed dry on this one too (although I almost derp’d the landing and fell in!). Again, the ladies, not so much. The rings were especially enjoyable, as it made me feel like I was on American Gladiators!
- Walk the plank. After staying dry on the bars + rings (and climbing a giant hill, and climbing down said giant hill), there’s no way around this one. Climb up to a platform, then jump ~15 feet down into a muddy lake. Personally, I’ve never jumped from that high into water. Plus muddy shoes and a camelbak? And it was a lot deeper than I expected (I never touched the bottom), and it was shockingly cold. Laura’s legs cramped up on the swim out, so that wasn’t good. The lifeguards gave her some salt to eat, and she walked it off.
- Boa Constrictor. We saw this one very early in the race, but it was one of the last ones. you see it, then wind way away, and don’t wind back that way for 10 miles. A giant plastic culvert pipe heads downhill, into a little pond, and another pipe goes up from the pond back to the top of the ditch. It looked much worse than it was going to be, the pipe was mostly smooth inside, which was refreshing after crewing through all the rocky stuff we’d been through earlier. getting down was much easier than getting back up the other side, though. the pipes were pretty smooth inside, and they were small enough that you couldn’t really use your knees.
- Fireman carry. You had to carry someone for 100 yards. Laura gave me a piggyback ride, then I tried to carry Laura using a true fireman carry. I could only do it that way for about half the distance, then gave her a piggyback ride. when was the last time you gave an adult a 100 yard piggyback ride?
- Zig-Zag. I’m not sure the real name of this obstacle, but it was my favorite. climb up a near-vertical 30 foot muddy hill. Move over 25 feet, and climb down the near-vertical muddy hill. Repeat a few more times, up and down, up and down. I don’t know why it was my favorite, but I enjoyed it!
- Random other things. carrying logs, climbing a vertical rope net, climbing a rope net on the face of a steep hill, climbing under barbed wire, climbing over and under logs, slogging through mud, swamps, climbing through a narrow underground tunnel, etc.
- Everest. This is one of the last challenges, and one of the few that is impossible without teamwork. It is a giant plastic quarter pipe. And it’s wet, and slippery. so you can’t just run up. but since it’s a quarter pipe, you can’t just stand there and get close enough to the top. so you run up, reach, and grab people who are already up there. you try to climb and they try to haul you up. We saw several people attempt, and try to leap and grab, only to slide out of someone’s hands and bang their head on the pipe as the slide down. And the slide makes that humiliating “screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech” noise as you slide down face and hands first. Everyone on our team took at least 2 tries, except Laura might have made it on the first? This was one of the last obstacles, so you’re already 11+ miles in and physically abused by the time you get there.
- Electroshock therapy. As if the early one wasn’t bad enough, this one is a much longer field of live wires hanging down. probably “only” 20 yards of distance, but about a food of muddy water and a berm (hay bales? I don’t remember) in the middle. I’ve never been shocked like this before. Each time I got hit there was a loud “SNAP!” and entire parts of my body tightened and tingled. Some were weak, some were strong, but every time you heard a SNAP from anyone around you, you flinched. I just tried to run through, and about halfway I kind of found a path that was reasonably clear, but I probably got shocked about 10 times total. OUCH. Some people belly crawled through, literally face in the mud, to avoid being shocked. Others ran through and hit wires and BAM, ended up in the mud unintentionally.
- BEER! When you finish, they give you a bandana, some protein bars, bananas, a t-shirt and a cup of beer. so that was nice. Sadly, we ran the last heat of the day, so most of the other stuff was shutting down, the band was done playing, most of the stalls were cleaning up, etc. Only ~1500 people ran Sunday, but 7000+ ran Saturday. that would have been a sight to see!
All in all it was a long, exhausting day. It was lots of fun though! I expected to do way worse, as I’ve never run anything nearly that long. I’ve done some 5k’s, and I’ve run farther than that on a treadmill, but nothing close to 12 miles. I also got through pretty much all of the obstacles, clearing walls by myself, and getting through the rings and bars, so I’m pretty stoked about that.
If we were to run it again, I would do some stuff differently, though. I wore shorts and a dri-fit style running t-shirt. with all the crawling on rocks and dirt, that left my knees and forearms and elbows completely unprotected; they are now painfully cut and scraped. The ones on my forearms are particularly lame, as it means i can’t really rest my forarms on anything, like i normally would when typing, ec. Next time, shorts that cover my knees, and 3/4 length sleeves at least. you spend so much time wet, that sweating through a long shirt isn’t really going to be an issue. I would have also used sunscreen on my face. you can’t really see it well, but they use a permanent marker to write your bib number on your forehead and arm, so when your bib comes off (it will!) you’ll still have your number. the number came off my forehead, but now I have a very faint sunburn outline of 45474 on my head. 🙂 The other problem I had was getting mud+crap in the tops of the ankles of my shoes. I’m not sure how to avoid that, but it sucked. Running it Saturday instead of Sunday would be fun too, as there’s a lot more people helping each other, and a lot more festivities at the end.