My first try at the Tough Mudder did not go so well. The weather was cold, the wind was whipping, the course was long and I was not as up for all of that as I thought. I finished the distance, but I skipped a few of the obstacles. I had to get redemption. When I found out that the Tough Mudder was coming back to the Peacemaker National Training Center in Gerrardstown, WV, I signed up right away. On October 19, I can proudly say that I earned the finisher's headband, with the help of 9 very helpful teammates.
The Tough Mudder is a challenge, not a race. There are signs everywhere saying that you will need help and that you will need to help others in order to finish the challenge. Over 10+ miles of hilly, muddy terrain and a host of obstacles, that was definitely true.
The course got muddy from the start, as we ran through thick mud just to get to the first obstacle. Just like last time, the first obstacle was a crawl through mud that forced you to get down and covered in mud. My shorts got so caked in mud that they almost fell off when I started to run again.
The course was set up very similar to last time, with long runs at the beginning to get to the obstacles. One thing that was new was signs saying to do 20 push-ups if you enjoy pain. There were two of those. Another time we were asked to do push-ups, with a penny given to the Wounded Warriors for each one we did.
The obstacles at the beginning are pretty easy, with most intended to test your mental resolve, like dealing with enclosed spaces or jumping off of a high dive. As the course went on, the obstacles became a little more physically demanding, like carrying a log or even a partner over a distance. The best ones, though, come near the end and are the ones that make you work with your team, or even strangers, to complete. For example, one obstacle was two 12’ high walls.
I certainly cannot jump up and touch the top of the wall, and neither could any of my teammates, so we pitched in to get the first person up to the top, who then straddled the top and helped the next person. It may not sound like that big of a deal, but when it happens six to seven miles into the event, and your strength is fading, it feels great to hit the ground safely on the other side.
The two obstacles that the Tough Mudder is really famous for are the “Arctic Enema” and “Mt. Everest.” Arctic Enema is basically a dumpster filled with ice that you jump in, go completely underwater to pass a barrier in the middle, and climb out on the other side. Sounds simple right? There is no way to describe how cold that water is. Many people said it was the one they hated the most. It is not a lot of fun to do, but it is a lot of fun to look at the pictures of others who did it.
Mt. Everest is effectively half of a half-pipe like skateboarders use. The idea is to run up the ramp and have somebody catch your hand and pull you up. It looks pretty easy in the pictures and videos, but when you stand in front of it you realize how steep it is. It also comes at the very end of the race, when your legs feel like cinderblocks and your ability to sprint is gone. We all managed our way up it, although some had to take a few runs at it. What I always wonder about this obstacle is how the very first person of the day gets up it, with nobody to catch them.
I ran almost the whole way. I walked up some of the hills, as they were slick and steep. I tried every obstacle this time although two got the better of me. The first was one where you had to walk over a fallen tree branch nailed onto a slightly bigger tree branch. It was slick, narrow, and my feet were not cooperating, so into the waiting water I went.
The other was the “Funky Monkey,” which is just a series of monkey bars. It should have been easy enough, except that the bars were wet and spun in your hands. I grabbed onto the first bar, felt it slip, shouted an expletive, and went into the water.
The last obstacle, as always, was the “ElectroShock Therapy,” where you run through a series of electrified wires. The ground, of course, was thick mud meant to slow you up and even make you trip so that you stand back up into more shocks. The shocks did not bother me too much, but some others were in real pain.
All that was left after that was a short hill and trip over the finish line with my nine teammates. We traversed 10+ miles, 20+ obstacles and finished up soaking wet and with mud in every crevice of our bodies (it feels grosser than it sounds, trust me). We all crossed the finish line with smiles on our faces, proud of what we had accomplished. The best part was that we accomplished it together; the way Tough Mudder designed it to be.