Have your friends ever tried to talk you into doing Tough Mudder? Did you check out the web site and immediately say no effing way!? I’d say that is a pretty normal response, but I think you should consider doing it anyway at least once. Yes, it is pretty crazy and you will be hurting like mad the next day, but it is worth it. It also supports the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a great and important cause.
Tough Mudder races are obstacle course races designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. It bills itself out as “probably the toughest event on the planet.”
They take their grit seriously too. You have to sign a death waiver to participate and some of the obstacles are pretty harrowing.
It is also an amazing amount of fun.
To be clear, TM races are not your run of the mill mud run or obstacle race. TM races are tough races of endurance with 25 or more difficult obstacles – usually run on ski mountains or other difficult terrain.
I did Tough Mudder the first year Wisconsin hosted a TM event. One of my friends e-mailed me and asked me to join his team. Without thinking much about it, I said, “sure!” I sent the link to my husband and he asked, “do they even let girls do this?” That was enough to tip the scales. I immediately signed up both of us up and told him that not only do they let girls do it, but this girl was going to kick his @ss. :)
Once that was out of the way, I studied the web site and course a little closer. I won’t lie: I began to worry. I knew I had enough endurance to easily run 10-13 miles, but some of the obstacles looked a bit out of reach for me. Most notable for me were the swim obstacles. I am not a swimmer, and in this race, we had to climb a 15 foot platform, jump off into a pond, swim across it and under obstacles – all with our running clothes and shoes on. And there was barbed wire and electric shocks. Gulp.
No time like the present to conquer my fears, right?
Training. My training wasn’t stellar. I had trained for and raced the Eugene Marathon that Spring, but then I got swamped at work with a big trial and did very little running leading up to the July race. But I did do our local mud run in the spring and successfully navigated the 10 feet of monkey bars. That’s enough, right? Alright, to say I was undertrained is an understatement. The good news is that you can complete (aka survive) TM without extensive training, but that is not the ideal route to take. I recommend that to train for it, you not only run, but also get in some good strength work. Boot camp and Cross Fit workouts would be perfect.
My Team. My team was badass. My friend Travis put it together and several of our teammates were former Army Rangers. We didn’t have the foresight or extensive funding for team shirts, so Travis bought some cheap tank tops from Walmart and spray painted our team name on them with black spray paint and stencils. Classy, no? Behold team Panty Waists:
Race Day. TM events are often touted for being done in crazy cold weather. That was not the case for our race. We went out in the first wave of the day (something I’d highly recommend to avoid any course congestion), but it was already in the 80s and wicked humid. The race started half way up a ski hill, so we made the climb and got into place. To start, we all had to recite the TM Pledge:
I must admit, reciting the pledge was pretty awesome. I was ready to conquer my fears and run with my team!! Before we knew it, we were off. The race started running down the mountain, so that was pretty awesome. But before we knew it, we were running right back up it. Half way up, you had to climb up and over big hay bales. By this point, our team already started breaking up some. We had a group of 2-3 guys take off up front (they finished with the leaders), my team was mid-pack and there were 5 of us, the rest were a bit behind us. Having a solid team is key though, as many of the obstacles you cannot do by yourself and it makes it so much more fun to work with others.
For example, there were several 12 foot high walls to climb. There were no footholds to help you though – you needed a teammate to help boost you up and over – and you helped your teammates to the same. We went through rocky pipes that ended in muddy water, we rinsed off with fire hoses, we ran through fire, we went down massive slip and slides and we ran up and down the mountain several times.
About half way through, we hit the big water obstacle I was so worried about. But by that point, I was just going. I climbed to the top of the plank and jumped in. Lo and behold, I not only lived, but I was able to successfully swim to the remaining obstacles, swim under them, and emerge from the water alive. I am not kidding a bit when I say I was BEYOND elated at this point. I had conquered a big fear and realized that it wasn’t that I couldn’t swim – I was just afraid of it. And I ripped that monkey off my back right then and there.
We continued on (after much celebration on my part). There was a huge half pipe that was wet and muddy that we had to run up and over. It was brutal and took me a few times, but I got there. More walls to climb, monkey bars over a water crossing, crawling through mud under barbed wire, swimming, and even carrying logs into the lake and swimming with those. Crazy. And badass.
As we got closer to the end, we had to go into a big tank of ice water and swim under a divider to make sure we were fully submerged and soaked before the final obstacle – electroshock therapy. This one had scared me and I watched several YouTube videos about it. There are several live wires hanging down you have to run through while soaking wet. Many of the wires are low voltage, but a few are hot – 10k volts. My plan was just to run through as fast as possible. But when I got there and saw it was full of muddy hay bales you had to traverse, I knew that plan was out the window. After my husband and friend went through, I took off. First I felt one of the big boys hit me and I thought, I am okay, I am okay. Then I felt another on my left shoulder – no doubt it hit my wet ponytail flying. Bam! I went down into the hay/mud and completely lost all concept of space and time. I recall just being frozen, then telling myself, GO MINDI! GO! Off I went and crossed the finish line in around 2 hours and 45 minutes – although that is a rough estimate as there are no official times. This race is all about comaraderie.
I know what you are thinking. That does not sound fun. It sounds horrible. Yes, it does, actually. But it was SO much fun. The biggest piece of it was running with my team. There are very few difficult, competitive events as runners we can do with our teammates. Sure, I had to wait for them sometimes, but they really helped me at other times too. And I did things I would have never imagined possible. Yeah, I still think the electroshock thing was crazy and am SO glad it was just before the finish, but it was – all in all – amazing. I suggest you get a good team together and go for it.
Have you done Tough Mudder? Do you have any tips for successfully completing this race?