This quote describes how I feel each time I complete a Tough Mudder. First, there’s the excitement at the start line. Then, there’s the multitude of feelings as we are running the course: exhilaration, achievement, fun, fear, hope, will to succeed. Finally, there’s the exhaustion- when you can’t feel your legs anymore, or when you’re so tired you just want to quit. It’s that moment, when you force yourself to keep walking (because at that point, you’re too tired and sore to run) that changes you. It’s when you cross the finish line, the volunteers put that orange headband on your head, and you want to collapse, exhausted, that you become victorious.
The first few miles are where we do the most running. We’re excited and pumped up from the start line; we climb the start wall, get in the corral, listen to the speech given, high five the army service men and women standing just past the start as we begin our 10+ mile journey. Except for a few mud pits and Kiss of Mud, the barbed wire crawl, we didn’t really begin encountering obstacles until mile 2.5-3.
Skidmarked, the 10ft. inverted wall, was one of the first big obstacles we came to on course. I was pretty happy with my ability to climb this one- largely by myself. I had to get a boost up to reach the top of the wall, but after that was able to swing my leg up and pull myself over the top. Birth Canal is probably one of my least favorite obstacles. It’s a large tarp stretched across boards with water placed in the middle of each part of the tarp, making it extremely heavy and difficult to crawl under.
Around mile 5 we encountered Balls Out, a slanted board with ropes placed every few feet across that you have to navigate. I wasn’t able to do this one, as I couldn’t find a hold for my feet and kept slipping off. Right after that, we hit Arctic Enema, the ice bath. Arctic Enema is an obstacle that inspires fear and dread in many a Tough Mudder participant. The first time I did this obstacle, it was so cold I couldn’t feel anything from the neck down. The second time I skipped it because it was so cold outside I feared hypothermia. This time, however, it was about 85 degrees outside and really humid, so I was actually looking forward to the chance to cool off.
What was really funny and odd to me were the two guys dressed as Cat in the Hat characters reading from Dr. Seuss books. I’m not sure if they were volunteers or employees of Tough Mudder, but they were just hanging out in the ice bath reading to everyone who came through the obstacle. It definitely made things interesting- I’m not sure how they avoided becoming frozen!
Cry Baby came next, around mile 7. It’s meant to mimic a gas chamber, with something akin to Vicks-Vapo-Rub filling an enclosed space. This time, they had us enter the “chamber” through an underwater area- and what’s the first thing many people do after holding their breath underwater? Take a deep breath in…really bad idea. My lungs and nose filled with the “gas” and it became super hard to breathe. It felt as if every breath wasn’t getting enough air to my lungs. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough and doubled over coughing for a few minutes afterwards.
Shawshanked was a new obstacle that I hadn’t seen on either course I’ve run before. Crawling through a short mud pit with barbed wire over the top, we entered a corrugated pipe with a rope that we used to pull ourselves through the pipe. Finally on the other side, we had to drop down into a pit of 7 feet of muddy water. I really liked this obstacle; it was fun. Beached Whale and Ladder to Hell came next- I didn’t feel like Ladder to Hell was as tall as it’s been in previous years, but it was still scary to climb. The Berlin Wall was challenging as it was muddy and slick.
We hit Funky Monkey 2.0 next; I had been looking forward to giving this obstacle another try as I was unable to successfully complete it in the spring when I did the Gulf Coast course. The key to success here is to make it from the trapeze bar to the pole on your first swing- otherwise you will expend too much energy trying to swing yourself back to the pole. This time I made it all the way across! It was an awesome feeling to finish this obstacle. I turned around and yelled, “Funky Monkey is my bitch!”
King of the Swingers is an obstacle I have yet to try- I couldn’t work up the courage to this time either. Because I had completed almost every other obstacle on course successfully so far, I was OK with skipping this one. By this time, everyone was tired and we were barely ‘running’ the course- it was more like a walk/jog. We were at mile 9 and I was thinking, “Why do I sign up for these things again?” We completed the Liberator, where I scraped up my knees pretty badly, and then we were almost at the finish. Mile 11 passed and we had less than 1/20 to go…Everest was up next. I ran up that wall and almost was able to hang on to Brian, but lost my grip and slid back down. But I couldn’t let that be what beat me- so I sprinted at the wall a second time. This time I made it up, rolling over the top to rest on my back, breathing heavily from exhaustion.
Then we were at the finish- a few of our teammates attempted Dead Ringer, the legionnaire only obstacle. I didn’t as my hands were already blistered and sore from many other obstacles. Originally I had planned on doing Electroshock Therapy, but at that point I was ready for my headband and beer so I skipped it and crossed the finish line. We had officially joined the Blue Headband Club!
Another successful completion of a Tough Mudder course was in our hands. Every time I’m at the start line of a Tough Mudder, I can’t wait to begin. Every time I hit mile 9 or 10 of the course, I’m ready to collapse in exhaustion. And every time I cross the finish line and collect the next headband for my growing collection of colored bands, I can’t wait until I can do it again.
Have you/would you ever do a Tough Mudder? Why or why not? Ask me anything…I’m here to answer your questions!