Just three short weeks after I finished my marathon, I chose to participate in the Tough Mudder. I probably should not have given the fact that I was not fully recovered.
But, I do a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t.
I wouldn’t say I was “injured” but I was definitely starting to notice that heel pain I’ve been talking about. At the time, I also had some hip tightness and pain when I would run longer than about 4 miles.
Oh well, I still did it! Tough Mudder took place on June 16th in Beaver Creek, Colorado. This was my second time running this race and, even though I am in a lot better shape this time in my life than the first time I attempted the Mudder, I did not do nearly as well.
The negative: I’m really not happy with this race, my performance in particular, at all.
The positive: This was the first race I did with the boy…. so that’s exciting!
I first visited the Tough Mudder in 2011. It was the first of these type of races, i.e. obstacle courses, that I had ever tried to do. That first year I proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to. I faced heights, cold water, strength tests, endurance tests, and even electricity. Choosing to do the Tough Mudder as my first obstacle course was a brave decision, but it made all the other runs look like cake! Since then, I’ve done the Rugged Maniac as well. I’m really addicted to these obstacle course type of events!
This year, as I returned, I knew some of the obstacles would be the same, but they change them every year, so I was trying to prepare myself for anything. Only a handful were the same from two years ago.
The race is up in the mountains and our wave was at 10am so we had to leave Denver pretty early. We woke up, grabbed breakfast at Einsteins and started the two hour drive up I-70.
After finding where we needed to go, we dropped off our bag and waited in the “staging area” as I like to call it. Each wave will head up to the start line about 15 minute before the time for a motivation speech, safety rules and a pump up session.
Before you head up there, there’s an area you wait in, the staging area. While waiting, I re-tied my shoes like five times, stretched a little and made sure to use the restroom one more time. When I returned, my boyfriend had made a new friend. A young kid, I honestly don’t remember his name, who was taking on the Tough Mudder solo. He was joining the Air Force real soon and instantly latched on to my boyfriend because he’s in the Army. We let him come along and run with us, although, I shortly regretted that decicision due to his “unsportsman like encouragement” and his constant loud bleching.
Finally it was our time to go. To get to the actual start line, we had to get over a 6 foot wall. A gentleman stood nearby making sure everyone made it over and was helping each other out – the way the race is supposed to be run. After hearing our motivational speech, singing the national anthem and reviewing the safety rules, we were off!
Before I get into the race recap, please keep in mind, the objective of Tough Mudder is to help each other out. The proceeds go to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and it even says in the rules to never leave a fellow Mudder behind. It is OK to skip an event if you don’t feel like you can complete it and/or are not comfortable (i.e. scared or, in my case this day: injured). You don’t get “disqualified” or kicked out. And in my opinion, what does it matter?! Even just running the length of the course is a challenge in itself at 10 plus mile, especially in that elevation. It’s all about having fun and helping eachother out. Here’s the tough mudder’s answer to skipping an event from their website:
“Can I skip an obstacle?
Tough Mudder® is not supposed to be about getting a faster time than your friends, so it’s fine by us if you want to skip an obstacle. The way we see it, you are there to have fun and get a real sense of achievement at the end. If you think a particular obstacle isn’t going to do this for you, just go around it – no shame there. However, if you are skipping an obstacle just to improve your time, then we think you are only cheating yourself. You paid to do the course – why not actually do it? Obviously, though, for some who participate there is a real element of competition involved in the event, so we do say that to qualify for a winners’s prize or for the World’s Toughest Mudder® competition you must have completed all the obstacles.”
With the start of the race, we ran down hill, curved around and were instantly subjected to the hills. Yay. (If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic). And then the obstacles started….
(Most obstacles are linked to a you tube video, I tried to find them all from the CO event, just to show you want they’re like).
Obstacle 1 – Kiss of Mud: With un uphill pull, we crawled under barbed wire through muddy rocks and dirt on our forearms and legs, beginning the long day of being wet, cold and dirty.
Obstacle 2 – Electric Eel: Oh boy was I dreading this obstacle!! This is where you had to crawl through water WITH electricty hanging down. We rounded the corner, shivering, as the clouds drew in the rain. “Obstacle closed due to lightning!” shouted a race official! You should have seen how much energy I gathered as I skipped around and laughed! I was soooooo excited that this event was closed!!!
Obstacle 3 – Blades of Glory: slanted walls to climb over as you slid down the other side. Peice of cake.
Obstacle 4 – Wound Warrior carry: The object is to pair up with someone and either buddy carry them or BE buddy carried. Would you believe that I buddy carried my boyfriend the whole way?! No, you don’t believe that?? Good, cause I didn’t. I was the one buddy carried. He swooped me over his shoulders and ran with me down the 30 yards or so of the obstacle. I loved people’s reactions when I yelled, “that was the easiest obstacle ever!”
Obstacle 5 – Funky Monkey: When I first completed Tough Mudder, this was the event I was most dreading because I didn’t think I had the upper body strength to get me across the monkey bars. I did it, though, and made it all the way across! This year, I noticed a few different things: 1. It was a lot colder, and I couldn’t feel my fingers to grip the bars and 2. A majority of the people were falling off and into the water…. Ah, greased bars. I still thought I would give it a try. I made it about 3 rungs before I caught a greased bar and I plummeted into the icy water. And Icy is not an understatement. When I came to the surface for air, I could barely breathe. The cold water left my chest feeling tight and me struggling for strength. I could barely pull myself out of the water. Some how I managed to get out; I couldn’t push myself using just my arms, so I wiggled my torso onto the ledge and rolled out. Needless to say, I was freezing at that point. My fingers began to turn purple along with my lips and it hurt to take in breaths. The weather didn’t help at all with the clouds looming over head and rain still coming down. Coldest I have ever been in my life.
Trying to move my muscles, the boy helped to warm my hands by cupping them in his. He encouraged me to keep moving, as much as I protested. I slowly made my way to the next obstacle.
Obstacle 6 – Sweaty Yeti: Basically, all this obstacle entailed was a steep down hill followed by a REALLY steep uphill, followed by a down hill hike (or slide) over snow. Did you know that when snow is left that long in the summer, it becomes really pellet-y (that’s the best descriptive word I could come up with) and rough to the touch. Rough + cold = really painful when you fall/slide down; especially when you’re still not recovered from your previous plunge into icy cold water.
Obstacle 7 – Arctic Enema: For those hard core runners, you’d think this was a just a nice ice bath after a long run…. Oh yeah, they add salt to it to keep it from freezing solid. Being chillded to the bone, quite literally, just minutes before, I chose to skip this event. I did it back in 2011, and didn’t need to do it again. I proved myself once already with this type of obstacle. The boy and our “friend” did it though! I can still see their shocked faces as they emerged from the icy water tub.
Obstacle 8 – Underwater tunnels: Immediately following arctic enema, they subjected people to submerge in slightly warmer icy snow melt water of the Colorado mountains. When I first did Tough Mudder, this was the only event I skipped. It’s a series of barrels floating in the water that you have to go under. That first year, the barrels were in water that was too deep to touch the ground in. I made it under the first barrel and when I came up for air, I panicked when I couldn’t touch the bottom and couldn’t breathe due to the cold. Because of that, I skipped this event this year. I was not ready to get wet and cold again yet. But I did notice that the water was shallow enough this year to touch in between each barrel, I think that would have been easier.
Obstacle 9 – Luberjack: (this video is not from CO). A series of logs to climb over. More difficult that it looked at first. The boy and our new “friend” gave me a lift up and I swung my legs over and dropped to the other side.
Obstacle 10 – Hold your wood: Grab a log, carry it around for about a quarter mile. Meh. No big deal!
Obstacle 11 – Ladder to hell: (Go to 8:25 in video) A ladder into the sky made of 2×4’s. I carefully climbed up and back down. While at the top, I encountered a girl who had made it that far, but was scared to proceed down. I told her to follow me, take it easy and step exactly where I stepped. This seemed to work (as her boyfriend was already on the ground) and she made it off of the heights.
Before moving on to the next event, we had the obstacle of the course itself: A steep up hill hike that really challenged my “injured” hip. It was hurting, I mean, really hurting with even step. A girl with a bull horn shouted words of encouragement as we neared the top of the hill, telling us that this was the last hill in the course. Boy was she wrong…
Obstacle 12 – Boa Constrictor: Sick of being wet, I really didn’t want to plunge head first into water again, but after the boy went first and assured me the water was “warm,” I followed him through the round tunnels, crawled through the mud and out the other uphill tunnel.
After the 12th obstacle, there as a good mile or so of pure, fun, single track, trail running! Here was my time to shine. Finally! Taking the lead, I took off bounding along the trail! I was cruising; passing other runners left and right with my boy and our friends (we gained another solo Mudder) behind me. I thoroughly enjoyed this section of the course. Although, I’m not so sure my body did. It was after this section that my hip tighten up and it started becoming even MORE painful every time I stepped with my right leg….
Obstacle 13 – Berlin Walls: (this video is from the Saturday CO Mudder…you can tell because the sun is actually shining in the video). I swear these were taller this year than last time!!!! I’m not THAT scared of heights, but I am scared of sitting at the top, straddling of a shaky 10 ft+ wall. The boy boosted me up, and as I got one leg over the wall, I squeezed for dear life with my thighs, then realized I was frozen; I couldn’t get down. I was scared and weak and the idea of bringing my other leg over and lowering myself down seem so terrifying. The boy, seeing my fear, jumped over himself (oh so strong!), lowered himself down and then allowed me to place the foot that was over on the support of his hands while I swung the other leg over and he caught me as I dropped the rest of the way down. And repeat, two more times.
Obstacle 14 – Just the Tip: No, this is not a dirty joke, this is event was actually kinda hard. And by kinda, I mean really. And by hard I mean, I didn’t finish it. (I could have added another dirty joke there, going with the play on words, but I’ll refrain). It was a two by four you had to just grip with just your finger-tips, hence the name, but I haven’t been climbing enough to build up that strength!!! (the video is not CO and there’s an annoying girl’s voice in the background. Sorry.)
Being 9 miles into this race and 1.5 miles left to go, I was nearing my end. My hip was god awfully painful, causing my eyes to tear up; and believe me when I say, I RARELY cry. And then we reached ANOTHER hill!!! Everyone around us openly exclaimed how upset they were that we were promised the last hill was the LAST hill. I shared their sentiment. The boy grabbed my hand, and powered me up the hill. We reached the next set of obstacles…
Obstacle 15 – Kiss of Mud #2: Should be called Kiss of Rocks. This event was painful. There was no mud, just wet, gritty rocks under barbed wire.
Obstacle 16 – Walk the Plank: Sick of being cold and wet, I almost skipped this one as well, but was promised that the water “wasn’t that bad.” Liars. Let alone did it take courage to jump off the height, but once you get over that, you plummet into icy deep water and are expected to swim to the other side. Water so cold it takes your breath away and your ability to move your limbs. The “lifeguard” aided me by letting me hold on to the life preserver while my boy waited to help me out of the water.
Once you climb out of the water, the way down is over more scratchy cold snow.
Obstacle 17 – Hangin’ Tough: More monkey bars, but the swinging kind. I tried it. I failed. But the water actually was the warmest on the course. Albeit muddy and gross, but warm. I made it about two ring swings before I fell in.
Obstacle 18 – Glacier: Bascially a pile of more snow. By this point I had perfected a way down these obstacles: place one foot in a narrow path created by others, sit “down” on this foot; not actually sitting but using it as support. The other foot goes out in front to act as a brake of sorts, although not confident enough in my braking ability, I still scratched up my hands by instinctively placing them on the snow bank beside me to stop myself.
Obstacles 19 – Everest: The 1/4 pipe you’re expected to run up and catch at the top. I had completed this event during my last Tough Mudder but being that I couldn’t walk, or run, without a limp, I chose to skip it. I met the boy and our “friends” on the other side.
Next up, everyones favorite. The last obstacle, Number 20 – Electroshock Therapy: OH BOY! Definitely watch that video, it’s really cool. Let’s just cut to the chase. I skipped it. Call me weak, lame, or whatever your wanted. I’ve done this obstacle before at my first Tough Mudder. I got shocked – a lot. This year, I was cold, wet, in pain and grumpy. I was NOT in the mood to get shocked. Nor could I even run at that moment and I did not feel like limping slowly through wires filled with voltage. Nope, not gonna happen.
I chose to skip it. But, I will tell you this story: The boyfriend, did go through it. Now, a little fact about the boy, he has a metal place in this shoulder from a football injury…….. in the warning for this race, they HIGHLY recommend you not do the electricity events if you have a pacemaker, heart condition OR metal plates in your body!!!!
Another fact about the boy: He’s tough and strong and will not quit/avoid/give up anything (a little something the Army instilled in him). Yes, he still went through. What he did tell me afterward is that as he was running through, out of of the corner of his eye he saw it: A rogue wire come wizzing up to him, shocking him and STICKING to his shoulder, the one with the metal plate! It was like it was magnatized or something!
He also told me that he felt “funny” after that event. Go figure. BOYS!
Having gone around the event, the boy and our new friends didn’t realize that I was still “in the race” and ran up to finish. They all raced eachother trying to “beat” one another under the finishers banner. I didn’t see who won, probably my boy (Yep, I’m biased), as I was hobbling my own way over the finish line. I grabbed my Finishers Shirt, my beer and searched for the boy and a place to sit. I took off my muddy shoes and donated them to a charity that cleans and sorts them and sends them to less fortunate children and/or countries to be used! I actually really love this idea…however, I looked everywhere for more information on what actual charity it was. The best I could find was the each state’s Tough Mudder has a different used shoe charity. If anyone one knows more information on this PLEASE TELL ME!! I’m super curious/want to know!
In the end, I was in pain and super unhappy about my racing performance. I know it’s not a serious event or the end of the world, but I felt like I was in much better shape than the first time I did Tough Mudder, yet I wasn’t able to a lot of the events. I feel a little like I chickened out, I felt defeated and I felt like I was not as tough as I thought. I was in a lot of pain and with the weather being overcast and rainy, the cold was not good for my bod.
The boy and I rested up, changed into dry clothes, and drank our beers while listening to the live band. The after party was great, full of fun things to do. There was music, like I said and a “Man of Steele” competition since the new Superman Movie had just come out. This was sponsored by Under Armor and featured crazy strong man obstacles like tire flipping, box jumps, etc. The boy tried his strength at some of the events they had and then we finally made our way home.
Being new to Colorado, I wanted to take the boy to Beaju’s Pizza (delicious Colorado style pizza made with super thick crust designed for you to eat with honey after your finish off the rest of the pizza pie). The original location is in Idaho Springs which is on the way from the mountains to Denver. I highly recommended it for anyone visiting Colorado. After sitting in traffic for over two hours, we finally arrived at Beau Jo’s to find it CLOSED!!!!!!! (It was just closed being of a power outage; it’s still open in general). Devastated and still hungry, we high tailed it back to Denver and right into the local chain location so he could try the pizza pie (yes, he did love it).
I already have plans to do another Tough Mudder. I would love to try one in a different location! Actually, after looking at the website, I noticed they are bringing a second location to Colorado Springs in 2014! However, I will try and train a little differently.
A 10 mile obstacle course, beer, live music followed with pizza. Yep, it was a
good great summer day.
Tough Mudder Website – check it out! Sign up! Do it!