My Tough Mudder
September 16, 2017
So here’s how it all begins…
I get an email inviting people to a first come first serve to both Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash. I have wanted to do one of these races for at least a year now, so I respond within minutes to lock a spot.
By the way, this blog post is brought to you by Latham Realty Unlimited, Kyani, and now Guinness Blonde!
BEER TASTING NOTES
Aroma: Light and hoppy with floral and citrus notes
Flavor: A complex and flavorful lager, hoppy and citrusy on the nose
Palate: Lively mouthfeel, crisp and refreshing with a long malt biscuity finish
Appearance: Golden amber colored beer with a dense head
Hops: Mosaic, Willamette, Mount Hood
I did enjoy one of these after the race and it was fan-freakin-tastic!
Back to the race.
Alarm goes off at 5 in the morning. My start time is 10:00 and we have to pack the sleeping kids into the car seats and drive the 70+ miles to Black Diamond. Yes, there’s a town called black diamond in Washington State!
I’m kind of nervous but mostly excited, Jodi is mostly nervous. More nervous than I am!
Once we get there, I direct her to the spectator entrance so I can check in and try to find the team I attached myself to. No luck finding anyone, and I left my phone in the stroller. The paperwork told me I needed to check in 90 minutes early, I was worried because by the time I got to Mudder Village, I was only 80 minutes early!
Turns out, no big deal!
We walk around the vendors for a bit, establish a lost and found meeting place, and basically do nothing as time passes. I contacted the team lead, but get no response. Now I get that these guys are familiar with the ins and outs of this race, but Jodi has got to push a stroller down a path that’s WAY less tracked down that the race path! So I basically text the team lead a good luck note and jump into the mix so Jo can start working her way towards obstacles.
Greg the Black Dude that’s just a little more funny than Chris Rock.
This dude pumps up the crowd, tells good taste race jokes, and leads us under the national anthem! We do basic warm ups, and then we get the start nod. By the way, I still don’t know if his mother went thru with the Artic Enema! He claimed that was her scariest obstacle.
Okay, here’s my Race Summary:
Start. Half a mile into it we aren’t sure which obstacle to go to, one guy hits the funky monkey before a staffer finally directs us to the Kiss of Mud 2.0. I found that being a small guy is probably going to help on this course! I help a dude out that got barbed wire caught on his shorts and then quickly moved on.
I followed a group that ran the wrong way after the first obstacle, they’re from Renin (imagine the Dodge Hemi guy saying it) that’s how locals say Renton! I decided to make new friends later on up the road!
Next is a long single file trail run mixed with the occasional walk, the trails on this property are awesome but with this many people on it the single file nature forces you to follow pace with the slowest guy in front of you, I really want to start trail running now. The Skid Mark obstacle appears and opens up the trail. You jump over an A-frame with a tire on it?!? I’m not sure the impact of that tire? But slow people take a break here and I run ahead.
Another single file line all the way to Devil’s Beard. This is a huge heavy net, think commercial fishing net, that is spread out on the dirt, which you have to crawl under. There were experienced Mudders (or at least innovative thinkers) that walked through it backwards and crouched over in a dead-lift pose. It took a lot of challenge out of the obstacle. Then it’s back to the wooded trail run. We come across the first water station, I drink 2 cups and run on to the Berlin Walls obstacle.
Here’s where the cynical Josh comes out. How the F do you call an 8 foot (at best) wooden wall with bracing that can easily be breached!?! The Berlin Wall? I wasn’t alive for the end of WWII, but when that wall really came down… My generation watched Eastern Europe #wokeAF without internet.
Okay, it’s not a political statement, it’s a race, kinda sorta.
Let’s run on and quit this B.S. The next obstacle is called The Block Ness Monster. It’s basically 2 rectangles roughly 100′ wide and 4′ tall. (If you’re reading this in another country, I’m exaggerating the whole time!) The gist is, you help 3 or 4 people over, then you grab a corner of the square and ride it to the pinnacle, then rotate over and use your weight to carry the block down.
The water in these events are cold, like kill your sweat instantly, COLD. Then you get out and run 2 more miles. Weird, I trained thinking of obstacles, not temperature shock!
The next obstacle was the hero Carry. As I eluded to before, I am running solo. This obstacle requires you to partner up, one carries another halfway thru and then ya switch. Another advantage of being a small dude is finding a partner for this one! Plus I got a few random high fives from his group. I made it into a few team pics today! Next time I’m going to wear a goodtalkjosh.com shirt!!!!
Next thing I know, we are at a water station, they also have energy gel packs. I suck down one of the vanilla ones and wash it down with 3 cups of water. A few clicks down the trail I see the Mud Mile 2.0. Basically ditch climbing over and over for 5 rounds. You expect the water to be deeper when you jump down, and wish there were more footholds on the way up! This obstacle is the only one that really hurt me physically, I scraped my knee on the crest of the 2nd to last whoop. whaaaa whaaaaa, right?
Afterwards we climb a hill that looks more intimidating than it really is, a quick run down the hill and I see my stroller! Jodi ironed on “TEAM JOSH” on the front of our kid’s shirts! I stepped out of line to give fist bumps (neither one wanted hugs from filthy, muddy daddy!)
They’re camped at Everest 2.0. There’s nothing 1.0 or 2.5…. just thinkin.
Everest is a quarter pipe that a mud soaked bastard has to get at least 3/4 of the way up and hope someone catches them. I watched enough people fail to know I wasn’t going to. It’s nice to know you can do something right the first time! There’s a benefit of failure that creates a learning opportunity, but first time success rocks! Especially if your wife records the effort!
The next big deal is called Cliffhanger. I know I tend to describe these obstacles as easy, but there are plenty of people that struggle, and struggle deeply. I witnessed at least 3 people give up on this one, but it’s a rope, cliff, and a hill. YouTube TMcliffhanger and you’ll see how much people let their own heads mess with their progress. STOP. Is this lesson important???
Okay, shit gets real at the next turn! I’m staring at a mountain. Like if you were with buddies on quads, this would be the hill climb challenge. There’s ropes and nets to assist, but this is the WTF hill! I heard 2 experienced hikers say “fuck that!” these guys had gear and whatnot!
I literally sprinted up the first section, at the end of the net, the grade softened to ‘you’re an asshole’ degrees. There’s also the quitters path. Like an affirmation that you don’t have to do this, hell, go home. Pussy
I continue to the top, and at the crest I’m fairly sure that I could see northern lights from this altitude. The descent is slow. I’m starting to feel the miles add up.
3 quarters down I feel my calves pulsing. I’ve never cramped up real bad, but somehow I knew what was coming. So I waddled as fast as I possibly could to the water station at the bottom of this hill. I couldn’t make it. I got close but then collapsed. 2 nice souls brought me the electrolyte drink on tap. I watched my calves’ ball up, split down the middle and then a tendon dance the jitterbug between each muscle. GROSS!
I drank a ton of water to wash down the sugar, because I heard someone NOT cramping say that. (At this point any science is real to me in the moment!) I take a few minutes and get my mind and body right. I remember seeing the sign for Quagmire, I remember saying to myself “giggity giggity” and I remember hopping into the puddle, but I must’ve been on cruise control because I can’t for the life of me, remember crawling out of it! I know I did it, I never ended up in a medical tent, but this one somehow never registered in my memory… maybe I … uh I forgot.
After that haze, we run to the Pyramid Scheme. A huge incline that takes 3 people standing on each other’s shoulders to reach the top. Once again, it pays to be small and solo, I jumped onto a team that needed a nimble climber to start the top. They built up, I climbed, and then directed where to grab for the other 4 teammates to get over the stand.
What followed was a long run stretch. It wasn’t on a wooded trail, so a fella could run the whole way! At one point, you cross path with Mudders on their final stretch of running, en route to the last challenge. The whole day everyone has been encouraging and uplifting, but nearly all the folks on this stretch seem bitter!
Oh well, onward I go!
I come up onto the Snot Rocket. This one is cool. Jump into the waist high cold water, duck under the dock float, and then climb a ladder inside a black PVC pipe. This was one I saw online that sorta scared me, but it was really not that difficult. My mind focuses on the end goal and treats the difficult tasks on the way as just difficult tasks, move fast and move on. This obstacle also cements my mind into not skipping any challenges. It was said early on, that if you didn’t feel comfortable with an event, there’s no penalty for not doing it. Well, I just breezed through what I thought was the worst so…
Another water station. This one has bananas! OMG thank you thank you.
Almost immediately after the water, we hit the Lumber Jacked station. It’s essentially a tree trunk lifted 5′ off the ground, ya gotta go over it, then there’s a second. I really feel bad for those that struggle on this one, but being smaller and still somewhat athletic, I was able to cruise thru this one.
Now there’s a good long run in front of us. It’s quarry view mixed in with trail run, pretty awesome terrain minus the dust! I get a genuine good sweat on before we hit the next obstacle. The Black Hole. The signs compare this to going thru a birth canal. It’s a series of troughs of tarps filled with water. This one wasn’t on my radar of scaring me, but the reality was that there was a slow scared stiff lady in front of me. She moved so slow that I started to panic a bit. I offered my shoulders for her to push off of, but she wasn’t receptive to solutions, she was fixated on her problems. I can’t handle that and I sure as shit can’t stay under these troughs, so I crawled around her and her poor friend that was trying to support her despite her bitching about the crawl. He has a long road ahead.
We get another long run again, just shy of a mile. Then we meet Balls to the Wall. It’s a rope climb up and over a wall. At this point I realize that the training I put into this was super effective, except trail running. I focused on arms, pull ups, monkey bars, triceps… but it’s the actual hill climb and uneven terrain that I could’ve focused more on.
Another water break and we are off to Bale Bonds. This wasn’t even close to a thinker. To clear this one, ya gotta run and jump up to 4 ‘ high, then jump back down to the trail again.
A bit of a jog later, we find Stage 5 Clinger. It’s a lot like climbing the backside of the high school bleachers! 45 degree incline followed by landing at the top. Only difference is, out here in the woods, the up skirt views are not the same! Move on to the next run portion.
On this stretch I notice a group wearing Team Smokey Point Concrete T – Shirts. I say Hi because that’s what I do. But I also notice their bibs indicate a 9 am start. I begin to wonder if I missed an obstacle, because I can’t be that fast right???
We come up on Killa Gorilla. This one is just plain mean. You climb up a hillside, only to come right back down, then repeat twice more…Dicks!
After that though is a super long stretch, a water station broke up the walkers, but back to the long stretch. We end up at claustrophobia city! Mineshafted, this is one I’ve been dreading! The tube under dirt and the hill climb that follows. I wait to make sure no one is in the tube, my fear isn’t the tube, it’s getting stuck behind someone and getting trapped in the tube.
As it turned out, not so bad! I was scared of getting caught in a tube, so all fears are settled? For now at least?
There’s a lengthy run with various terrain that follows. I hear people saying we gotta be close to the end, only one obstacle left, so on and so on. I’m at the point where my mind is now everywhere else except on my body, I’m running out of habit, not even really conscious of the cramps and pain anymore. I see more and more bibs that indicate 9 o’clock start times. Overhearing these conversations makes me think I must’ve missed some part of the trail, I’m not this fast, am I?
Just as my mind is playing tricks on me, I see the signs for Funky Monkey The Revolution. This obstacle looks like something off American Ninja Warrior. There’s a ladder, or monkey bars, set up at a 35 degree angle incline, at the top, a wheel you have to grab onto. Once on the wheel mounted vertically, you rotate using your body weight to transition to the two wheels mounted horizontally and if you haven’t fell yet, onto a little bar hung by chain is the last challenge to navigate to the platform. I watch a ton of folks drop into the water. I’m looking to copy successful strategies, but there is way more unsuccessful examples in front of me. Finally it’s my turn, I start at the last rung I can reach, I think to myself, don’t let your arms go fully extended. What catches me off guard is the lack of confidence in my grip, my hands have enough dirt and mud caked on that I don’t trust them holding onto the bars. I slowly get going and after I haven’t fallen off, I decide to trust the grip. I turned up the speed. This became my favorite obstacle, I flew through it and almost wanted to go back in line to do it again!
Back to the run, well at this point jogging at a walker pace! The cramping has almost fully disappeared. Enough so that I’m not constantly thinking of it anyway. There’s a slight uphill stretch with a sharp left turn. I’m certain I’ve skipped ahead. Everyone is saying we’re almost done, all the bibs around me are 9:00 a.m. or earlier. I’m thinking about the obstacles we ran by earlier, and the ice bath one I know I haven’t hit. I’m okay with it, nothing positive has been said about this one, so if the electrocution is all I have left I will deal with it!
Just as I’m thinking this thought, I crest the hill. There’s the Artic freakin’ Enema obstacle. This is seriously a construction dumpster filled with ice water you slide into and then have to swim under tires and chain link. You wait until the path is clear (common theme here) once you let gravity take over on the slide, your life changes forever. There’s no words for that instant freeze. Your body shuts down everything but your core. Tendons and muscles retract, it feels impossible to inhale. But you still have to dunk yourself again to get under the tire and chain link. There’s no chance to think, just do it. Word has gotten out to the spectators, this is the best place for expression watching on the course. A dozen people made eye contact with me as I was trying my best to climb out before losing digits. I wanted to pee myself to warm up, but I was certain that the equipment was turtled too far in to make a difference.
After a quick downhill ascent, we were on that part of the trail that goes side by side again. Now I know why so few faces were joyous and cheerful, they just saw the devil!
I can hear the music. We are close to the village, which means I have one more challenge to go! I am back to running, the ice bath numbed all aches, or at least my head. Before running through, I glance the crowd for Jodi and the stroller. Usually it’s easy to spot, it’s bright orange and sticks out everywhere except at Cabela’s in the fall, and a Tough Mudder village. Hunter Orange is everywhere, I don’t see her. So I just go for it. I didn’t feel anything for the first few rows of wire, but got a couple good ones as I hopped over the first hay bale. The shock shoots thru you, and snaps as it leaves your heel and finds the mud under you. I went into full Tourette’s syndrome. As I was involuntarily cussing I recognized a familiar face cheering at the end of the wires. I veered left, probably only to get 5 additional stingers, and gave Jason a high five on my way through.
I got my goodies at the finish line, and found the family at the food truck line. Jodi was stung by a bee, the kids were restless.