We are Tough Mudders!
First off, we finished and we can officially call ourselves Tough Mudders!
Now a recap of the day (this is gonna be LOOOOONG). We left our hotel at around 7 to get to the resort which was about 30 miles away. The Tough Mudder website and emails recommended we get there 2.5 hours before our start time (at 10). When we parked the car, the temperature outside was about 36.
We took a school bus from the parking area to Wintergreen Resort. It felt like the longest drive ever. As I looked around at my fellow passengers, I started to become intimidated. Everyone looked pretty fit. And not that I’m unfit, but I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to keep up with people like them.
We had already signed our “death waivers” (stating that we couldn’t hold TM responsible for any “serious, even catastrophic” injuries and our families couldn’t sue them if we died on the course) so we were able to go right to the packet pick-up station. They checked our IDs (oddly enough the guy directly behind me in line was also named Carroll), gave us our race tags and wrote our participant numbers on our heads and arms or legs. Whether they did this so our photographs could easily be recognized later or to identify dead bodies, I’m still not sure.
We had a lot of time left before our wave started. We checked Joe’s backpack and watched the costume contest. We tried to stay warm by standing next to a metal canoe filled with burning charcoal. The vibe at the “opening ceremonies” was great. People were having a good time and seemed pumped to start the course. It actually helped calm my nerves.
We watched a couple of other waves start and before I knew it, I was standing at the starting line. We listened to the national anthem, repeated the Tough Mudder pledge, and got pumped up by the emcee. And then we were off.
We ran around a corner and got sprayed with some water before we approached a large hill. It wasn’t long before we were all walking. It was a really steep hill. I don’t think most of us were expecting such a large hill at the start but Joe and I had seen it when the school bus dropped us off.
The top of the hill brought an unwelcome sight: the Berlin Walls, the obstacle that had been haunting me for weeks. According to the course map, the walls weren’t supposed to show up until much later. The sight of them was enough to suck my enthusiasm away but I figured I might as well face my fear right from the start. With the help of Joe and another kind participant, I was launched up high enough into the air to swing my leg over the top, bring the other one over, and drop to the other side. It didn’t take long at all. I went up even quicker over the second wall. It was a rewarding experience to get up over those walls. It gave me some needed confidence early on.
From there, the course is a bit of a blur so this might not be chronologically quite right. We went down a steep hill. We climbed under a cargo net, through the “gauntlet” (climbing over large bales of hay while water was shot at us), carried a wood log up and down hills, and hiked through the woods and over fallen logs. We then tackled the monkey bars. As expected, I fell into the water after only a couple of bars. Joe managed to get a little further but fell into the water when one of the bars twisted when he went to grab it. Now we were officially wet.
Then we tried to cross the balance beam over a pool of muddy water. I thought I’d do pretty well here but when we got there, we could see that the wood beams were pretty wobbly. They were encouraging more than one person to go on the beams at a time so I let Joe go first and started to cross when he was about halfway. I only got a few steps in when the beam started to shake and I fell into the water. Joe, however, made it across.
I was soaked. The water hadn’t been too cold but the air temperature at the time was probably only in the low 40s. I thought that was enough but then came what I think turned out to be the worst obstacle of the day, something called the Chernobly Jacuzzi. This was a large Waste Management bin filled with colored ice water. It took your breath away when you first got in. In the middle was a wood wall you had to swim under. When I went under, I opened my eyes to see if I could tell if I had cleared the wall. All I saw was blackness. Thankfully I came up on the other side. By that point, I could barely move my arms and legs and Joe had to help pull me out. Thankfully they were handing out space blankets once people came out but it didn’t really do a whole lot to help.
Just a few feet away were the cargo nets, which were probably 10-15 feet high. I took a quick breather to try to get my blood moving again because otherwise I thought I wouldn’t be able to control my arms and legs while climbing. Several people were tugging at the bottom of the nets so that they were easier to climb. I got to the top pretty easily but had to wait a minute for the guy next to me to get himself over so that I didn’t kick him in the face when I swung my leg over. I ended up losing my participant number on the way down. Considering how cold I was, I got over pretty easily. Joe stuck around for a bit to help pull down on the net.
From there, I think we trekked through the woods again a bit and came out at Greased Lightning, basically a big slip-n-slide. I didn’t really want to go face first into the pool of muddy water at the bottom so I sat down, pushed off…and skidded a few feet. I kept pushing myself along until finally I picked up speed about halfway down and slid into the water.
Just when I thought we might be done with water for a while, we approached the Underwater Tunnels. These could have been a lot worse than they were. In previous events, it looked like they floated large blue tunnels on the top of the water. But Wintergreen didn’t seem to have any natural lakes to do this on so they dug a pit and made the “tunnels” out of wood. The obstacle wasn’t bad really. You only had to go completely under water on the last log.
I think it was about this point I thought “Wow, this really isn’t that fun anymore.” I was freezing and soaked but I had made it that far. I knew I had to keep going. Just because it wasn’t fun at that moment didn’t mean I was going to let that get in the way of finishing.
I’m not sure if I’m accurately going through these in order (the course map isn’t much help. The obstacles weren’t in the exact order they were listed on the map), but I believe next we went through Boa Constrictor. These were black tubes you had to crawl down, wade through a pit of muddy water, and then climb back up. They were muddy and full of pebbles but it was pretty easy.
It was around this time I think that we started the Death March. We’d already gone up a couple of steep hills but this was by the far the worst we had to climb. It was a black diamond hill and must have been at least a mile of incline. It was steep and it felt like we were never going to get to the top. Every time you thought you were close, you realized that you’d only reached a mini plateau and had further to go. This was one of the few times in my life I’ve heard Joe breathe hard during a physical challenge and perhaps the only obstacle I endured a little better than him. We stopped every now and then (like everyone else) to rest our legs. We’d turn around and get a beautiful view of the mountains covered in fall colors.
We finally reached the top, only to be greeted by Kiss of Mud. This just involved crawling under wires in the mud. By that point, that felt like nothing. We then had a chance to grab some water and a banana before continuing on. For the next couple of miles, we followed a trail along the rental properties. We had some great views at times and it was actually kind of nice. Unfortunately when I tried to run, my knee would throb in pain. I’m not really sure what tweaked the pain but I’ve had it before when I’ve tried running. I worried that if I tried to run too much, my knee wouldn’t let me finish. So we walked most of the trail, although we walked fast and tried to jog downhill.
Along the trail we came to Log Jammin’, which involved climbing over and crawling under a series of logs. We then came to an obstacle that was never listed on the map, Bale Bonds. These were two very large bales of hay stacked on top of each other and you had to get to the top and over. Joe got up first and managed to help me get up the rest of the way.
By this point, we were around mile 7, so we were only supposed to have 2 more miles to go. We approached the second set of Berlin Walls and these were significantly higher than the first set. There was a long line and we weren’t entirely sure how we’d get over them unless we had a lot of help. We decided to skip it since we had conquered one set of walls that day. I hate to say we skipped something but it made sense to us and we weren’t the only ones.
We had another long trail and then we got to the mystery obstacle. We climbed a ladder to the top of a slide. The first part was a straight show down and then it curved into a slide. A few women in front of us decided to skip it after seeing the view of the drop. It didn’t look too pleasant from the top but I took a deep breath and then dropped down. The obstacle was really about conquering a fear of heights/falling. Physically, it wasn’t really difficult.
From there we went through the Kinky Tunnels. I suppose if you’re claustrophobic, they’d be pretty scary. I thought they’d be pitch black inside but enough light was coming through that you could see where you were going. They were hard on the knees but not much else.
Next up was the Turd’s Nest. Climbing up the ladder and the height made me a bit nervous but I just followed Joe’s lead in crossing the net. My feet were cramping pretty bad but at least the guy spraying people with the hose never decided to target me.
From there we went through Shake-n-Bake. We walked through water and then crawled under a wire uphill through some sand. I came close to being kicked in the face by the guy in front of me a couple of times but it wasn’t too bad.
Next up was Everest. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get up it without doing some damage to my knee. I was cramping pretty easily at that point too. I watched a few times and wasn’t sure if I’d really make it. I also noticed a lot of girls were bailing on it so I let Joe do it. He made it up pretty easily. In retrospect I kind of wish I’d tried it since we were close to the end. That was the only obstacle that really defeated me.
We were finally getting close to the end. Around mile 9 we came to Fire Walker. This was a path with burning hay on either side creating a ton of smoke. The heat felt good but the smoke wasn’t too pleasant. I pulled my shirt up over my nose and mouth to try to block it out but I was reeking of smoke for a while after that. It didn’t help that the people in front of us were walking through. I would have at least jogged through that if I could have. There was also a flame you had to jump over at the end.
For good measure, they made us climb one final steep hill before the finish. (To note, we had to go up and down several large hills, really ski slopes, throughout the course. I didn’t list them all because I don’t remember where they all were. I just know we went up and down about 6 steep hills.)
When we made it to the top, we could see Electroshock Therapy. We were hosed down by the fire department and then had to run through the wires while also jumping over a couple of blocks of hay. I was so uncoordinated at that point that I slipped a bit but the shocks weren’t bad at all. They were enough to make you jump and think “What was that?” but not bad enough to cry out in pain. I got shocked a couple of times. Joe said he didn’t get shocked at all when he went through. He must have found a path without any live wires.
And just beyond that was the finish line (which was actually closer to mile 10 than 9). We ran to the end and I stumbled a bit since I was pretty depleted of energy but we had finally made it. When we crossed the finish line, we got our orange Tough Mudder headbands and our t-shirts. And then we got our hard-earned free beer.
Little did we know we had another “obstacle” at the end. There was a line forever long to get our bag back. All we could do was stand there and freeze. We got a couple more space blankets while we waited in line outside for MORE THAN AN HOUR. We were shivering the whole time. It was probably in the upper 50s but when you’re soaking wet, it feels more like 35. As soon as we got our bag, we put on warm shirts, changed our socks, threw out our old shoes (TM cleans them up and donates them) and put on clean ones. We decided we just wanted to go back to our hotel and relax. The heat in the car never felt so good.
When I took a shower, I realized I had bruises all over my arms and knees. My knees were really tight and hurt. When I tried to sleep, I would get a jolt of pain in my right knee if I turned it the wrong way. I had a disgusting cough. When I woke up, I was super sore. But I was so proud to have those aches and pains since I made it to the finish line. It took longer than we would have liked but at least we did it.
I can’t say enough about the teamwork and camraderie from the very beginning. People would help me even when I wasn’t looking for it. When I was climbing over some hay, I felt someone pull me up. When I was going down a steep hill and started to slip, a stranger grabbed my hand and helped me down. When I was sitting down to pull my sock up to keep my shoe from rubbing too much into my ankle, people asked if I was okay. People cheered on strangers. The whole event brought a lot of good energy and it was that energy that helped me keep a positive attitude 99% of the time, even when I was in pain.
So, would I do it again? I think in a year or two I would. I feel like I only 95% conquered it since I did skip two obstacles (even though I had already completed one version of the walls) and didn’t get to run some of the trails. Joe noted that the hills really took a lot out of you. It made it hard to keep your energy up. If I did it again, I think I’d look for a slightly warmer location to do it in and I’d love to have a bigger team. Conquering certain obstacles would be easier with a big team and I think it would make it even more fun.
Until then, we’ll keep on training. We’ve got a 5K on Thanksgiving morning. And Joe is already trying to think of the next challenge we should take on…