My day at the Kentucky Tough Mudder started much later than I’d hoped. Usually my start wave is no later than 9 am but for some reason this year they only had start wave options available between 10-11 am for Sunday’s event. After our alarms went off around 7:30, we woke up, got dressed, made sure to pack everything we’d need for the day, and headed on our way an hour northeast of Louisville to Sparta, KY to run the 11 mile course we’d volunteered at the previous day.
The drive didn’t seem to take that long at all; before we knew it we were lining up to get our start times. Despite the numerous times we reminded ourselves not to forget anything, we forgot a few things (my arm sleeves, knee brace, his ticket) before lining up at the start. Eventually I decided to forego the brace and sleeves because I didn’t want to keep walking back to the car! Once we got checked in, bibs pinned on and, most importantly, used the port-o-potties, it was already 10:15 and we had to line up in the next start wave.
After the warm up and start line speech (which wasn’t done by Sean Corvelle, boo) we were on our way! The first thing I noticed about Kentucky was that it was waves of undulating grass in all directions. The second thing I noticed was the amount of short, steep hills that were in the beginning of this course. My original plan was to use the walk/run that worked so well for me in previous races, but this time I ended up walking more on the uphills than running.
Right round mile 1 we came to Kiss of Mud, the muddy barbed wire crawl. One thing I always notice is the different types of mud on each course. In Central Florida its usually the dark, grainy, sandy mud; Georgia and north Florida have an abundance of red clay mud and Kentucky had this mucky, slimy light brown mud, pictured in all its awesome glory below.
After getting out of the mud crawl, we came to Skidmarked and the Hero Carry, a 12′ inverted wall and the ‘obstacle’ of carrying ones partner several feet to a switch point and then switching for the remainder of the distance. Sometime after passing mile 2 we encountered the Berlin Walls, more 12′ walls but this time straight up and slicked with mud. We met our photographer friend Greg at this obstacle and he decided to do a mini photo-shoot with us.
Mile 3 brought Pitfall, large pits of muddy water interspersed with slippery mounds of mud, the Block Ness Monster (one of my favorites!) and Bale Bonds (hay bales to climb over). We hung out in the Block Ness Monster obstacle for a while, helping other mudders get across the large blocks while standing in chest high water. At one point, Greg asked all of us to hold the block still so he could walk out onto it and grab some photos- all while being adamant that he did NOT want to fall into the water! We mudders can be a mischievous lot, but we wouldn’t ruin his camera equipment so we didn’t let him fall.
We also ended up saving a frog that found his way into the Block Ness obstacle. I guess he really liked the warm muddy water! Pyramid Scheme was next up and I have to say it was probably one of the worst organized obstacles I’ve seen on course. This is a hit or miss obstacle- it can either go very smoothly or be a complete clusterfuck. This one was definitely the latter. The theory is that you build a pyramid of bodies and send people up the obstacle by climbing over the pyramids of bodies. However, no one seemed to be able to follow directions from those of us who had done it before, which resulted in me trying and failing to be lifted to the top of the pyramid about 7-8 times before I finally made it. In Atlanta, this was a fun obstacle, but here, not so much.
The last obstacle for the half course was Everest. I made it up again in one shot. A lot depends on how slippery the wall is based on how muddy the participants are who go first, but I’ve had good luck my last few times on this obstacle. After finishing Everest, the half participants went on to the finish line and those of us doing the full course continued on our journey. A few more muddy pits ensued before we came to the first new obstacle on course- Stage 5 Clinger. There was a first timer version and a legionnaire version; the legionnaire version required you to climb up a ladder under a platform, make your way across bars nailed into the bottom of said platform, reach around to grab a bar on the top of the platform and use a small foothold to launch yourself over the top of the platform to climb down the other side. It was quite interesting and challenging.
Mile 7 and 8 were mostly on a gravel path around the outskirts of the Speedway itself. This was the easiest portion of the course to maintain a steady running pace because it was the flattest portion. After Hold Your Wood and Ladder to Hell, mile 9 loomed up ahead and Arctic Enema- the Rebirth stood right after. This obstacle has undergone constant changes since I first did it back in 2014. This time we slid down a black tube slide under a chain link fence into the icy cold abyss. We weren’t able to stand up because the chain link fence forced us to keep the majority of our bodies in the cold water before ducking under a platform and coming up on the other side. I tried to come up too early so I ended up hitting my head on the wooden platform and had to feel around to find where I could exit. After coming out of the ice cold water, a girl who had just come out told me to run around to get warm. My response, “I’ve done this 5 times and it never fucking gets easier!”
Nearing the end of the course now, we quickly went through Black Hole (a pitch black version of Birth Canal), Funky Monkey: the Revolution (which I skipped because my upper body strength was all but gone at that point), and another new obstacle (and my personal favorite of this course) called Snot Rocket. For this one, legionnaires had to dive under a chain link fence (they really have a thing for cold water and chain link fences) and climb up a tube with small hand and foot holds on the side, all while cold water rained down on us from hoses placed strategically above every tube. It was very hard to see where the hand and footholds were and I slipped multiple times but luckily made it up the whole tube!
Finally it was time to finish the course! I had been debating the entire time whether I thought I would attempt Kong, the legionnaire finisher obstacle, or Electroshock Therapy. Honestly I probably would have tried Electroshock had there been more mudders there to go with, but I would have been the only one at the time that I arrived at the finish and I really didn’t want to go alone. So up the ladder to Kong I went! I swung out on the first ring and tried to reach for the second…and fell. 20 feet down onto a huge blowup crash pad. I can’t stand hanging ring obstacles- I have never been able to do them. I really need to go somewhere I can learn about the technique!
Finished and earned a new sweet yellow headband to add to my collection! It took us just over 4 hours to complete this course, which seems to be a normal time for me to finish Tough Mudders. I think we could have shaved at least 20-30 minutes off had Pyramid Scheme not been such a disaster, but these courses aren’t about finishing time. I definitely had fun but man, was it an exhausting day! Not only the hills and elevation gain, but the sun beating down on us while running took its toll as well. I can tell you one thing though…that finisher beer was the best finisher beer I’ve had in a long time. #5 down, 5 more to go until I earn my black 10x finisher headband!