Saturday was a blur.
Jon and I arrived at the fairgrounds in Doswell, Virginia, shocked at the sheer volume of people there. Around 10,000 strong, there to complete (hopefully), and survive the Tough Mudder.
Over 10 miles of terrain, and just under 20 scheduled obstacles, we were up against the weather as our first challenge of the day. Temps were pushing 100, the sun bared down on us for most of the course, and factors we thought we were all prepared for, we just all weren’t prepared for.
I saw athletes much tougher and in way better shape than I, crouched and in pain on the sides of the course. We saw plenty of runners carted out by medics. There were competitors dehydrated, cramping, throwing up.
It was a hell of a race.
But we finished.
We started at about noon, after a fun Warm Up with a crazy DJ who had the crowd amped up. At the start line, another gentleman gave us the rules (leave no Mudder behind, don’t be a whiner, drink your water) while another man hosed down the already sweltering runners.
Then off we went, some running, some walking, us – half jogging – the first mile or so until we came upon our first of the obstacles. I’m going to rank them for you on a scale of 1-10, in case you are curious about doing the race yourself.
I’ll be perfectly honest…I wasn’t sure I’d make it. It was hot. I was scared. Some of the obstacles? Had me in a panic. But I tried to push all of that aside, and just keep moving. After about 2 miles, my calves began cramping so badly I was knocked to the ground in agony. The heat and lack of water (I’m just not used to) took a toll on me. But Jon kept helping me up, and encouraging me. So up I got, and on I went.
A straight up wall. Except wait – NOT straight up. This obstacle was called Skidmarked, and the wall met you at an inverted angle. A boost from a fellow mudder helped you grab another at the top of this tall wall, but it was up to us to use what upper body strength we had to throw ourselves over it.
Strength/Toughness: 5 Mental: 2
Hold Your Wood
Obstacle two was kind of a breeze. A group of mudders are paired up to carry a giant log on their shoulders, through a series of a couple of obstacles.
Strength/Toughness: 2 Mental: 1
Birth Canal took me a bit by surprise. I think I kind of skipped over this one in the pre-planning stages, because it just looked easy. You basically shimmy under a big plastic pathway that has been filled with heavy pink water. The weight of the water really pushes you into the ground, and as people come in behind you, the water displaces and forces you to the ground. It’s hot, it’s sticky, it’s a claustrophobics nightmare.
Strength/Toughness: 6 Mental: 4
This one was a toughie. An inverted wall, with a series of ropes. The goal was to swing from one rope to the next, and traverse your way across. Jon made it fine. I got to the third rope and lost it. Hard on your hands, and man, do NOT lose your momentum or you are done. (Look Mom, back muscles!)
Strength/Toughness: 8 Mental: 3
Mud Mile 2.0
I really didn’t know what to expect here, again, I kind of skipped over this one as I planned. But imagine coming up to a HUGE field of deep mud pits – 8-10 feet high, each filled with muddy water that is about 4 feet in depth. You slide into each pit, traverse it, and then try to get yourself up and over that wall of mud. And immediately into another pit. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. All the way to the end. This one was tough, full of incredible camaraderie, and one of my very favorites. Plus, the mud layer left on us kept us cool until we finally lost it.
Strength/Toughness: 5 Mental: 2
This obstacle wasn’t one on the Mudder site, but it’s a big pit. Of mud. It was a half swim-half crawl through an uneven mud pit, about 20-25 feet across. Easy, but awkward. After making it through to one side, you ran around a bit and then walked/fell across the other because hello? It was full of pits.
Strength/Toughness: 2 Mental: 1
This one had me nervous nervous nervous. Tear gas? You enter a tiny tunnel filled with mud and smoky gas, and crawl your way on your belly and forearms through to the other side, where you push open a door to emerge into the fresh air. Do your eyes burn Yes. Do your lungs burn? Yes. But it’s exhilarating.
Strength Toughness: 3 Mental:7
I am likely getting out of order, but it doesn’t matter. Warrior Carry is when your partner carries you. We got part of the way and then I screamed in pain because of horrible calf cramps. Fun? Nope. But fun to watch.
Strength/Toughness: 8 for the carrier. Mental: 1
I was on the lookout for this badboy. A slide under a chain link fence and into pure ice MUD. Talk about a shock to the system! You could hear the squeals and screams from yards away as you approached. This is where we lost our mud layer, and the sun became ravenously hotter.
Strength/Toughness: 2 Mental: 3
Ladder to Hell
This one is bad if you are afraid of heights, but other than that, it’s just a giant ladder. No biggie.
Strength/Toughness: 1 Mental: 1
It depends on when you get there as to how tough it is. For us, it was hard. A tall wall, and you are given two wooden pegs to hand over hand your way to the top with sheer upper body strength. If someone isn’t at the top to help pull you over – ouch. This one is a doozy. Later on in the day, for some reason, the pegs were left in the holes and foot holds were added…making it much easier. Boo. Glad we did it the hard way.
Strength/Toughness: 8-9 Mental: 2
King of the Mountain
Huge stack of hay bales. Itchy, but not difficult. Kind of like pulling yourself up on the kitchen counter as a kid. Push with your arms – it’s all upper body strength here.
Strength/Toughness: 2 Mental: 1
Straight up and over these really tall walls. Get a boost, then use your upper body strength to pull yourself over. Hard? Yep. You’ll get bruises but you’ll feel like a warrior. Shimmy down the opposite side, then do it all over again a second time.
Strength/Toughness: 6 Mental: 2
I knew this one was going to kill me. Very few (not even 25%) made it all the way across this series of higher and higher monkey bars, followed by trapeze, followed by a pole to hand over hand across, while dangling high above a muddy pool. I made it to the second bar because I knew I didn’t have it in me, but I wanted to make the attempt. Jon made it about halfway. Really – this one is a killer. Had it been early on? Maybe. But towards the end of 4 hours? Nope.
Strength/Toughness: 10 Mental: 8
King of the Swingers
Y’all, I have never been so happy to see an obstacle out of order. But yet, we still had to do it. When operational, you climb up 15 feet to a platform, jump out over a giant pool of muddy water, and grab for a trapeze of sorts, then try to ring a bell. Because the trapeze portion wasn’t working, we lined up on the platform and JUMPED.
You all don’t know me. I am NOT a fan of water. Jumping from ANY height gives me intestinal issues. I just can.not.do.it. But I did it. And I didn’t die. I was shaking like a leaf after, my calves cramped in the water (AGAIN), but I did not die. This one was a challenge for me, so I am going to rate it high. You can use the same scale because if you have to do it the REAL way, the numbers will mesh. Skarrrry.
Strength/Toughness: 8 Mental: 9
As if it weren’t enough to just be out there for 10 miles, the last 2-3 were in a muddy jungle. Like…MUDDY. You can’t walk kind of mud. Into hip high mud pits that suck you in. You can’t crawl out of, you can’t fathom. Add a few more obstacles, like a giant rocky tube to pull yourself through – ON YOUR BACK WITH A ROPE – and a hill of crawling – UNDER A NET. A net is heavier than you think, people. HEAVY and unfair. The cussing…you should have heard it.
I almost didn’t do this one. Second to last obstacle, 10 miles in? I was done. To be faced with a giant half pipe that you have to run at, full force, then haul yourself over? Jumping up to grab what you hope, is your savior in a stranger dangling over the top to help pull you up? Scary. It takes some guts to launch yourself like that. Soooo glad I did it, even with the great chest bruises I am sporting. What a rush.
The End. I was SO done with the Tough Mudder by the time we got there, I KNEW I wasn’t going to do this stupid obstacle. it had worried me for weeks, and especially the day of the race. SHOCK. Electric SHOCK.. It scared the pee out of me. Imagine, if you will, a cesspool of knee high mud, and hanging in your path is a BILLION electric wires. Now, traverse the mud to the other side.
Did I get shocked? Yes. Did it hurt? Yes it did. Was it unbearable? No. I’d do it again and feel great about myself for trying. I have plenty of curse words left that I didn’t have to use. Just not going to do it today.
Strength/Toughness: 5 Mental: 10
We crossed, like warriors. We were given our headbands (this is a huge deal – you earn these bad boys), a t-shirt, a towel, and some party favors. The vast majority of runners head off to leave their muddy shoes (which are cleaned and donated to Honduras, nice, right?) and then grab the ShockTop Beer they were promised.
Will I do this race again?
Possibly. But I gave it my best, and I don’t feel like I left anything out there undone. I’m thrilled I challenged myself, and that I trained, and that I succeeded in doing something I thought I would never have the guts to do.
Today I am banged, bruised, blistered, and sun burned, but I am feeling more alive than ever.
I am alive.
Thank you to Tough Mudder for the use of the photos, and to the girl at Arctic Enema who took our first picture in this post and texted it to me because my phone was covered (as you can see above) in MUD. Thank you, thank you.