Holy Moly I write this to you from a world of pain. Tough Mudder is a whole new race experience: very tough, but so much fun. Here is my experience:
It was a cold, cold Georgia day. It reached about 40 degrees, but the biting winds took it down to a ‘feels like’ 24. Yes, Europeans, that’s below freezing in your language. After the classic pre-race breakfast of a McDonalds bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (what?? all the best athletes eat this I tell you) I donned my Tough Mudder T-shirt (thanks Gabe!), joined my teammates Andrew, Andrea, Gabe and Amanda and registered. Obligatory war paint later…. we were off.
You climbed over a wall into a pen for your start wave, and the MC did a great job at getting us fired up… I was bemused / surprised / bewildered at having to salute the American flag before an obstacle course which threatened hypothermia (were we tying America to voluntary stupidity?? Who knows…) but enjoyed listening to the anthem. This nationalistic pride is a while new thing to me (I’m from a land where we say “I’m British… sorry…”). Then boom – we were off. Here is my hazy and imperfect memory of the race:
(1) First obstacle jumping over muddy-water filled trenches. Done.
(2)Second obstacle: crawling through deep, deep mud under barbed wire. Done. So far, so good. Then a 5K – easy peas… wait, what was this? The mud setting on my body like a plaster cast? Weighing me down and feeling like it was made of ice? Hmmm… OK, ok, I could do this.
(3)Third obstacle: scrabbling over walls. No problem! I didn’t even need help… but could help others…
jumped down and ran to
(4) a dumster filled with water. And ice. So much ice. I decided I didn’t care and leaped in next to Gabe. I did care at that point:
The shock was immense. Literally, breathing in was difficult. Then there was a wall up to the water level, so you had to fully submerge and swim under. OK… OK… it hurt. It really hurt. Amanda and Andrea were smart to go around this one. But we sign up for pain, right? So, I carried on, enjoying the challenge.
(5): Turd’s nest…. OKey doke, close by, a wall to climb over, and a rope thingie. Good good – all members of my team rocking it.
(6) Running through flaming hay. Not scary, not difficult and to be honest: darn nice to be able to warm up.
(7) Next up: bails of hay, each about 4 ft tall to scramble over, maybe 8 ontop of one and another. No safety net. Scary, yes, achieveable – yes. Up went all 5 members of ‘tough mudder bitches’ and down again. Sweet.
(8) Then mud like I have never seen mud. I lost my shoe… Deep, deep mud and pipes to crawl through. This caused some tears from me – I am not good with narrow spaces and feeling ‘trapped’ and especially not narrow spaces with no traction…
but hey – seeing Amanda and Andrea and Andrew push through was encouragement enough. Andrew gave me a great tip: go on your side, as you don’t be able to push any other way except through momentum.
(9) Ah, next, the greased money bars. The famous & popular (spectators) or infamous and feared (runners). I mean, they would be bad enough… and painful, but of course, tough mudder had to put them over iced water. Gabe & I didn’t stand a chance, although Gabe is my all time Tough Mudder hero for doing it with a torn rotator cuff. Andrew made it! Rockstar!
Another colder, more mud covered 5 K. This was OK, although I was envious of Amanda and Andrea being DRY.
(10) Crawling through long and very dark trenches in the ground. I was terrified…. Gabe talked me through it 🙂
(11) Then running, this time over time logs piled up…
(12) to a tarpaulin on the ground, with electric wires hanging a few inches above. Bad enough, except that they also constructed a sprinkler. Water + electricity + a human = not good. I was scared, but figured I’d be able to slither through without getting touched. Wrong. As the first one hit me and felt like a sharp, sharp stab followed by a buzz I flattened totally. I remember being OK at this stage, but I wasn’t because when one spectator on the sidelines said “you’re doing it wrong, use you legs!” I stopped dead still, turned my head, glared him straight in the eye and said slowly, quietly and disgustingly: “You come and f&*!ing do it”. Then I carried on my miserable way.
Oh, look, another 5K. This one involved wading through a waist high bog of thick, foul-smelling stench (this time Gabe, Andrea and Amanda sensibly skipped it… Andrew and I carried on regardless). Then running through a cold rocky brook for about a mile. The wind was up, I was soaked, there was no indication of how long this section would be, and when I saw ‘Mile 7’ I think I wanted to cry that I was only just over 1/2 way through. I didn’t. I carried on
I lost a lot of the obstacles here, the next I really remember was
(17) Really, really high walls, perhaps 8/9 feet (?) The guys on the course were awesome – the let me climb all over them (ouch) and boosted me over. I did both because I got so much help! BUt felt bad that I was totally unable to help anyone else.
(18) Holding wood and carrying it some way. Tiring, required mental grind but not too bad. Some guy yelled at me “That log is bigger than you!” which cheered me up immensely. It was here that the cold, cold, cold really set in. As I said, to al intents and purposes, it was 24 degrees. Not ideal. My hands were seizing up… my wet hair freezing on my bonce… but on to
(19) jumping over some tyres (with the wood) – again, quite nice and easy, except that you were so tired it was hard to keep your footing…
(20) Monkey bars number 2: swinging hoops. Me: Fail. More plunging into icy water (in the -24 weather: who cares? Me. I cared). Gabe, Andrea, Amanda: Go around. Andrew: Success! I was eternally grateful to Gabe for helping me out… a friendly face really boosted me
(21) Walk the plank. Honestly? Probably the second hardest obstacle. Climb 15ft into the air, wet and freezing, and jump into a freezing lake. I got up there no problem and stood next to Gabe. “Are we going to do it? Are we?” he said… I shrugged, “I guess so….OK”. Gabe did a count down and I didn’t want to let him down so jumped. I could not have done it without him – it seemed so high. This was the team support of which everyone spoke.
The cold was shocking. Shocking. Many people’s lungs spasmed a bit and they couldn’t breathe… this is where a few were carried off in heat blankets…. I was OK! Gabe was OK! Andrew appeared not to have noticed it was difficult and was battling on. We joined the girls who waited for us on the side and ran (I think I limped actually) onto
(22) Everest. A huge, huge plastic wall, at 90 degrees to the ground after a slope, covered in mud. You had to run up it, jump up, and be grabbed at the top by others who hauled you over. This was Andrew and I’s feeling on it:
We tried. After 2 very, very close attempts and the third failed attempt and the third set of cuts and blood trickling down my face, I walked around. Andrew: over like a champion! Waddling, limping onto:
(23) Going on your back across a wire, hanging over a lake. I actually quite enjoyed this – it hurt. It hurt like hell, but I made it well. I think Gabe and Andrew did too. Then onto:
(23) The most painful. Long narrow beams, above water (I think it may actually NOT have been iced). The girls waited on the other side as Andrew, Gabe and I slowly inched, inched our way. At end of it, I waited for the boys and broke down. My hands were frozen stiff, I was shivering uncontrollably, and couldn’t see the end.
But the end was in sight 🙂 1.5 more miles running, admittedly with limbs so sore from the obstacles, and with soaking, freezing clothes clinging to me – but still, 1.5 miles didn’t seem so bad.
(24) Walking through a bog (whatever, so over this) and then
(25) Running wet, through electric shocks. I am ashamed to say that I nearly wimped out. I stared them down for so long… Andrew ran right though, Gabe stayed to encourage me, until I started crying and told him to jut go. He did it! So proud of him, and I couldn’t bare to have tried every single obstacle except the last one.
So, I ran.
The shocks were light at first, but towards the end, strong enough that my legs gave way and I splatted into the mud.
Who cares?? Done!! Onto my free recovery beer!
I hate beer…. Wes’ fries were much more welcome.
I was so glad I did it. So proud I tried every obstacle… all the freezing water, all the electric shocks. In fact, I only ‘failed’ at Everest, because I was bleeding and battered. So impressed I ran the full 1/2 marathon, even when cold, and caked in mud. So glad my other Tough Mudder, bitches, helped me through it 🙂