For the first time since I can remember, I woke up and I did not feel excited about going to an event. If you asked me what I really wanted to do that day I probably would have told you I wanted to stay in bed and sleep instead of wake up and run. I’m not sure if it was burnout from all the hardcore marathon training I’d been doing the past few months or if I just wasn’t feeling doing another mud run, but something had me not wanting to attend the Tough Mudder in Central Florida. The only reason I had gotten up and out of bed was because I felt obligated to be there due to my ambassador status. That and I had two new runners that were going with me and I felt I owed it to them to be there.
Even during the drive, I wasn’t enthusiastic. Normally leading up to an event such as Tough Mudder I’d be excited and ready to run the course, but I couldn’t summon enough enthusiasm to get going this morning. I got to the venue, parked (close to the festival area, which was a plus) and got in line to get my start time. The rest of my friends were running at 9am, so I told the volunteer working the information tent that I was too and headed inside. We got our bibs on and got ready to get in the start line. I had actually forgotten lots of things I normally would have had with me…which is a good indicator how distracted I was leading up to this event. I didn’t have my arm sleeves, any nutrition or hydration with me, and I even forgot my Garmin watch!
Once we got in the start line, my enthusiasm seemed to come back a bit. I enjoyed hearing the warm up and also stating the Tough Mudder pledge that they recite before the beginning of any event.
Then we were off and onto the course! After the first 3/4 of a mile of trail running, we came to the first few obstacles, Kiss of Mud, Devil’s Beard and Berlin Walls. All three of these have been on multiple TM courses I’ve done and I completed all three (with a bit of help from some people at the Berlin Walls of course). Next we went through a few more mud pits labeled as obstacles and then came to Shawshanked, where you have to crawl through mud with barbed wire overhead, up a small tube and then fall out of the tube into a pit of water. This obstacle is actually one of my favorites- it’s fun and pretty easy for most people to do. The water did make things pretty chilly with the wind blowing after we got out so once we finished here, we ran a bit to warm up. Ladder to Hell was next; this obstacle used to be my arch nemesis due to my fear of heights, but it seems I’ve been able to complete it the last few times on course with ease. Once we finished that we headed over to Hero Carry, where I took turns carrying my friend Nicole and switched halfway for her to carry me. This was the first time I’d been with someone I could actually lift haha…normally i’m with guys on course and they are too heavy for me to walk with!
Skidmarked, the 12′ inverted wall came next; I opted to skip that obstacle due to the fact that I was afraid I’d injure myself prior to running my marathon this coming weekend. However, I was happy to see my two new recruits complete it! Next we came to Everest, the famous slicked up half pipe mudders have to run up. This time around I ended up having to use the rope to help myself to the top, which was odd because in Kentucky I was able to get up it on my first try without rope. I think the one at Central Florida was taller and bit muddier than the one in Kentucky. Either way, that marked the end of the course for those doing the Tough Mudder half and those of us doing the full carried on the opposite direction for more mud and obstacles.
A few more smaller obstacles came between us and Balls to the Wall, the rope wall. We all cleared Balls to the Wall and went on to Arctic Enema. Brian and I decided to skip AE due to the fact that it was pretty chilly outside. Since we’d done it numerous times, it wasn’t a huge deal for us to not do it this time. We coached the newbies through it though; it is definitely a shock to your system the first time you jump into a large vat of ice water!
A mile or so later we came to Hold Your Wood, where mudders are required to carry a large log around a certain portion of the course. After completing that section, we moved on to The Reach Around/Stage 5 Clinger. I completed the first portion (monkey bar pipes) of this pretty well, but I always have a tough time when it comes to lifting yourself up over the ledge of the 10′ structure. It’s hard for me to lift my own body weight as I don’t have a lot of upper body strength. A few smaller obstacles later, we came to Funky Monkey: The Revolution. This was one I had actually been worried about almost the entire course due to the fact that I pretty much stopped strength training for the last six months to focus on running. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it, but as we approached it, I decided to try it. I followed my longstanding advice when it comes to monkey bars or any kind of rig- don’t look down. Focus on getting from one bar or pole to the next. The minute you look down on one of these you are pretty much done. I made it to the spinning wheels and successfully navigated through the rest of the bars to finish this version of Funky Monkey for the first time since they changed it! Now the score stands as such: Funky Monkey: 2, Montana: 3, with one time not even attempting the obstacle. Out of all the versions they’ve had of this obstacle, I think this is my favorite!
Finally we were nearing the end of the course. You can always tell when that’s happening because the obstacles tend to be bigger and more concentrated together. We hit my absolute favorite obstacle, the Block Ness Monster, large rotating blocks in a pit of water you have to navigate over. I always have fun with this one and most likely would have stayed in the water helping more people had it not been super cold outside. However we continued on to Pyramid Scheme. Pyramid Scheme is a hit or miss- if people listen to each other it can be completed with relative ease; if they don’t then it’s a huge clusterf*ck. They have a slippery wall that’s slicked down with mud with no hand or footholds and you have to get your team to the top. The easiest and most common way to do this is to build a pyramid of humans and have each team member climb the others to the top. Then periodically another strong person will take the place of the “base” of the pyramid and it continues on until everyone reaches the top. This time we were pretty successful at building our pyramid and getting everyone to the top, however, I’ve seen many courses where everyone doesn’t listen to each other and people are falling all over the place.
Finally after Pyramid Scheme we came to the end of the course where legionnaires could take on Kong and first timers got to run through the canopy of live wires that haunts every Tough Mudder’s nightmares, Electro Shock Therapy. This time I decided to try ElectroShock Therapy for a few reasons- I knew I wouldn’t be able to cross Kong because of my lack of upper body strength, plus I’d tried it in Kentucky and fell and I didn’t like the sensation of falling onto the blow up air mattress they have underneath. Also, I felt like I should go through it with the two newbies I had brought because our other teammate decided to watch and take pictures. I have to say I actually enjoyed it this time around. The first time I did a Tough Mudder I spent the entire time dreading that obstacle and it actually turned out to not be as bad as I thought. This time I got shocked and fell, but it only lasted a few seconds and then I was up and running again to the finish line. Finisher headband and legionnaire headband earned.
If you read my race report on the South Carolina Spartan Beast and Bonefrog Orlando last year, you know how difficult both those races were for me. Both stole a part of my OCR soul; they made my love for OCR disappear and it was hard to find my passion for running obstacle events after that. Not only did I think I wasn’t “good” enough to complete OCR anymore, but I also hated the fact that I felt abandoned on the Spartan course by people who professed to be my “teammates.” I pulled away from the group I had been running with the previous two years, MudRunFun, and started to focus on races I could do for myself, such as road races. OCR was no longer fun for me.
It was hard not doing it, but I really just couldn’t summon the enthusiasm anymore for these events. It wasn’t until after I completed the Tough Mudder course here in Central Florida that my enthusiasm seemed to come back. I realized how much I missed doing mud runs, and I decided that next year my focus would be on a come back to the OCR world. I’m not sure how involved with the team I’ll be due to my recent experiences. I will probably only run with friends I trust or alone; at least if I start out alone I know I’m not going to be disappointed. However, completing the Tough Mudder gave me back a sense of self when it came to OCR’s; it allowed me to see what I had been missing and why I love it so much. The teamwork and camaraderie on Tough Mudder courses continues to be unparalleled to any other race experience I’ve had. I really missed the mud and having fun…when I race road races, I usually always have a time goal in mind so its nice to tune out and run just for fun and the hell of it. I never have a time goal going into a Tough Mudder- my goals are usually to complete as many of the obstacles as possible and just have a good time. Focusing on OCR next year will hopefully bring back my love for these races and remind me why I really enjoyed doing them. I still have a few road races on tap for next year, but most of my fall season will focus on obstacle racing and getting back into the routine I didn’t know I missed.
Have you ever fallen out of love with a particular aspect of running? Did you re-find your love for it or do you still not enjoy it? How did you get yourself to overcome your doubts regarding that part of your running?