I was fortunate enough to run with the “I want my Mudder” team in this years event. I had originally planned to do the first heat solo and fast and the next with the group, but my ankle injury was not part of that plan. I have to say, running relaxed with the team was even more fun than running fast.
Right off the gun our big noisy team broke off into a dozen quieter conversations. I happened to be talking with Justin, who is a very strong athlete but also injured. We started chatting and jogging along – and we spent the next few hours watching the miles and obstacles click by with a constant stream of (mostly my) chatter.
We both would have felt guilty not running harder on the flat runable terrain had we not been injured, so we were given full permission to take it easy and soak up the awesomeness, camaraderie and human spirit that is a Tough Mudder.
Here were the obstacles that gave Justin a moment of quiet:
Artic Enema: first obstacle, and time to man up. This involves jumping into a big tub of ice cold water and pulling yourself under a board in the middle. Our tank had less ice than last time I did it so it wasn’t as bad. But it was still very very unpleasant. Not “OMG, this is so friggin cold!” – more like “OMG, I think my heart just stopped and I’m have a seizure!”
Glory Blades: I found these to be a nice little warmup. The walls were about eight feet and tilted toward you. I was able to grab the top and sling my foot over using the side from a stand still.
Walk the Plank: this was my first time and I not ashamed to say that I was scared. Basically you climb up onto some rafters and jump off into deep water. It’s easy to judge the timid purple shirt wearing girl who clung to the platform for dear life while the crowd goaded her until the volunteer shoved her off. You know that if you climb up there, you’re going to fall a long way into very cold water. You will be thrown off. So jump with pride or get thrown off in shame. These are your only options on the plank. So as soon as I got up, I asked if it was safe to go. One deep breath and I went. Turns out that deep breath came a little late and my head was already under but the time it processed. Oops. Still, I threw my own self off that scaffold and there is something truly magical about throwing your stuff frightened self off of something very high. It’s almost like half your muscles are like, “noooo!” but somehow your self throwing muscles win and you are suddenly hurtling toward a deep cold pool below. I would suggest streamlining, pointing your toes, calmly swimming up to the surface and breathing in air instead of water. I would also suggest making sure that your self throwing muscles are well conditioned.
Hold Your Wood: another participant handed me a log. You never see that at other events. She had just decided to help other people get organized for their log carries. Awesome. Anyways my log looked big enough but was pretty light to be honest. If you want to look cool, grab the big dry ones. If you want to look like a loser, go for a soaking wet branch and struggle with it, preferably near someone small like me who has found a very dry stump.
Kiss of Mud: everyone’s favourite place for photos. You know the ones. Some pained but happy expression peaking through the barbed wire, splattered with dirt. The dirt is really the least of your worries. The barbed wire hurts and is strung low enough that you can’t make it through on your hands and knees, forcing you to drag as much skin as possible along the sharp rocks that line the pit. This one was the worst type: almost high enough that you could go up onto your hands and save your forearms but not quite. I can almost imagine the evil geniuses at Tough Mudder HQ comparing forearm lengths to post height to arcitect how they could get people to oscillate between ripping up their forearms and their backs. Well played TM. Well played.
Berlin Walls: a couple mudders behind me gave me a final push on the first 12′ wall but I was happy to scale the next on my own using the side without momentum. Someone came over in aid of course, but determined to go it alone I was all like, “don’t touch me!” – I know that’s not really the Mudder way. On the bright side, he backed off as soon as I started shouting like a crazy person so I didn’t need to kick him.
Mud Mile: ruts were dug into the muddy ground and filled with water. What sucked was that surprise deep holes were randomly added – what really sucked was falling in and under. Best advice for you is graciously allowing your teammate to go first and following them.
Lumber Jacked: ah over-unders. Not difficult but they make you feel as awkward as you did as a teenager at a high school dance. As the name implies, you crawl over, then you hop over. You can develop a rhythm and finess or you can just get them done.
Trench Warfare: narrow dark tube up a hill then down a hill. Not an overly physical obstacle but I’m glad I didn’t get my own dessert last night. Down was sloped enough you could almost slide down. But not quite. My tailbone felt every ripple in the tube.
Prairie Dog: there are situations in life that I’m glad I’m not claustrophobic. This is one of them. It’s probably abound 100m of crawling underground in a dug-out tunnel. For a moment it becomes black, and when it does, I’m sure not coincidentally, the ground drops from underneath you.
Ladder to Hell: a vertical structure with widely spaced rungs. It was easy enough but maybe not fun if you’re afraid of heights. The most unnerving part was the dude with the moustache and screw gun who was either taking screws out it putting them in. Not sure which I would be more worried about.
Warrior Carry: this one wasn’t hard at all – for me. Since my only teammate carried me double the distance. I just got a partway piggy back for free. Suckas!
Devil’s Beard: this one isn’t difficult – just annoying and time consuming. The guy in front of me was holding up the net which made it way easier. Thanks again guy.
Balls to the Wall: a wall with rungs plus rope combo. Not so hard. I just leant back and walked up using my arms to pull at the same time.
Log Jamming: over and under big fat tree logs. They were high enough that they were reasonably hard to get over. You could hop and press yourself up and over. I used the sides since jumping is a no go on a bum ankle.
Cliffhanger: two steep hills that we wouldn’t have known were an obstacle had there not been a sign to announce them as such. We just walked up. People sprinted past us like they were being chased by a bear. People that probably don’t know about lactate threshold. I’m sure the rest of their crawl to the finish line was nice.
Funky Monkey: monkey bars that incline up and down. Apparently some are greased and some spin but I’ve never noticed. As such, I make my way carefully across holding each bar twice and “testing” the bars coming up. A lot if people plunged here. Some just let go right away. You’d think a swim in freezing cold water would be enough but maybe they should add some lemon sharks (those harmless but scary kind people swim with).
Everest: the famous run up the half pipe. Find a dry patch (not muddy and not under the dude pouring oil), lock eyes with a helper at the top and go all in until your on the platform. It’s definitely harder to do it yourself but you can. Get good sprint, a grip on the top and pull-up. Note: even if you have a helper, try to get up yourself. It’ll be easier on everyone.
This is where the first time mudders broke off from the multi-mudders. Anyone who had completed at least one event would get to do a special “Legionaire Loop” where there was a surprise obstacle I suspected was called the “dingleberry” since my husband had yelled, “meet you at the dingleberry” a few miles back. When someone yells something like that to you when you’re running, it stays with you.
Dingleberry: this one was designed by a Whistler Zipline company. Basically it was a Tarzan swing of a “choose your own adventure” style. The first was pretty tame – swing from rope to rope with planks at the bottom. The next was without planks but with enough rope to catch your feet. Level black belt monkey ninja had no rope for your feet and relied on technique and/or upper body strength alone. Almost nobody made it across – team I Want My Mudder leader, Dai Manuel, was one of a few that did. The wait for the obstacle when we got to it was a Disney World style 25 minutes so it seemed like a good time to feed the baby. First time I’ve ever been high fived for breast feeding. A few people even snapped pictures. I wonder later if I’ll be a fixture in their Tough Mudder photo albums.
Legionnaire Special Edition Kiss of Mud: this one involved crawling through the rocks under what seemed to be extra sharp barbed wire with an overly trigger happy dude with a fire hose shooting you with a hard stream of freezing cold water. The couple in front of the line were really struggling – which left us faster crawling folk trapped in the line of fire for longer than anyone would have liked. At one point I took a shoe to the face and consequently whipped my head into the barbed wire above. At this point I had to wonder why we were paying for this but the dude with the fire hose was doing this for free. I tried to pause under the wooden supports when I heard the hose coming but I’m not sure it really helped. Complaining, sobbing or otherwise drawing attention to yourself does not help… I will tell you that.
Legionaire Special Edition of Electroshock Therapy: the sign said “100,000 volts” and slightly ahead was a cargo box filed with wires. People do crazy things. Like running through a box of live wires ready to hit them with 100,000 volts. Especially since these same people have likely been hit already by 10,000 and knocked on their asses. Thankfully for the wait times at the local hospital, this was a joke obstacle and not even powered.
Electroshock Therapy: this one is most commonly sited as a favourite obstacle – for the spectators. Live wires that hang down through a shoot that you need to sprint through in order to make the finish line. My fellow Mudder noticed that the bigger guys fall harder – maybe because they touch more wires. And they do indeed fall hard. I have never done this one since I have an arm implant and would apparently get “burnt flesh.” I can only live vicariously through the pain and fear on the faces of my fellow mudders as high voltage electricity surges through their bodies.
Thanks Tough Mudder and Tough Mudders for the awesome day. I’ve already signed up for next year!