I have survived! But did I finish? You’ll have to stick around for the 2-3 posts it’ll take to hear the full tale of my Tough Mudder. Then I’ll follow it up with some tips for future Mudders based on my experience. Well, let’s get to it!
My friend and I took the two-and-a-half hour drive to a town near Pocono Manor (the race location) on Saturday morning, checking into our hotel and getting settled before meeting up with the rest of the team (heading in from various other locations) at a nearby outlet mall. After finding a team shirt (we settled on neon green, both for attention and to be easily recognized by our two spectators/photographers), we stopped by a nearby bar/grill to grab dinner together and get to know each other. It was here that we started seeing Mudders who had run the race that morning! This was clutch, and we got a lot of tips from them, including:
- “Don’t jump in the blue Arctic Enema or your skin will be dyed.” -Half of this team’s members literally had blue skin from the dye used in the water.
- We were told what the two mystery obstacles were (rings over water and a second electrocution obstacle).
- We were also given tips regarding staying in motion before you freeze up.
- And of course, it was emphasized multiple times that it will be the coldest several hours we have ever experienced in our lives.
The cold concerned me the most, as I’m very thin and I was worried about being soaked in ice water for 3 hours in 30 degree weather. I had read many accounts of people being pulled off the course with hypothermia and I figured I was more susceptible than most people because of my frame. On the other hand, I was less concerned about physical injury because I don’t weigh much, which I think makes a slip of my foot less likely to turn into a full-fledged pulled muscle or sprained ankle. As we ate dinner, we all kept checking the big-screen TV behind our table to check the morning’s weather. It seemed every ten minutes, the forecast was grimmer and grimmer until they announced a “freeze warning” overnight and into the morning. It seemed at the time that we would be running in frigid weather, all the more nerve-racking. Nevertheless, I went to bed that night comfortably aware that it was the last time I would feel warm for a long time.
Though I gave myself nearly nine hours to sleep, the previous day’s Mudders in our hotel were partying it up all night, so I only got about six hours of sleep. Even so, I woke up totally at peace with the idea of this Tough Mudder. I checked the weather, which was ever-so-slightly more encouraging than the previous night’s forecast and I was ready. A twenty-minute drive to a parking lot, and another twenty-minute shuttle ride to the race location left us at registration, where we checked our bags (containing a dry change of clothes), pinned on our bibs, tied our laces tighter than they’d ever been before, and stretched a bit. We were also informed that they had extended the course nearly 2.5 miles, making it an almost 14 mile course. This didn’t shake me though, if I could run 11-12 miles, I could handle 14. When we were all ready, we headed to the starting line.
Heats were going off about every 20 minutes, so we just hopped in the next one. We had to climb a wall just to get into the starting zone, which got us in the obstacle mentality. After some rants, cheers, and the National Anthem, we recited the Tough Mudder creed:
As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…
I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
I do not whine – kids whine.
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.
There was a brief countdown and we were off! Running into a wooded area, initially on heavily-watered trail of mud and then very quickly off of the trail. Without a trail we had to dodge trees and logs and boulders, fighting the overgrowth while striding carefully enough to avoid injury. The uneven territory made for several runners falling very early in the race, tumbling or rolling their ankles (none seriously that I saw). My team of 9 was for the most part grouped together at this point and we made it through the first portion of the run (only a half mile or so) amidst a bunch of ‘Hoorah’s'! The first obstacle was Kiss of Mud:
This obstacle was simple enough. I crawled very low to the ground (don’t want to get caught on the barbed wire!) on my elbows and knees to get across (some preferred to rest on their stomach between strides, but at this point my core muscles were fresh enough to keep myself slightly off the ground. There were big sharp rocks in the mud that you often didn’t see until you had already put your weight down. Luckily, I was wearing UnderArmour ColdGear top and bottoms, which definitely helped me avoid scrapes (though not bruises). For the most part, as long as I placed my elbows and knees down slowly, I could gauge if there was a rock underneath and reposition if I had to. There were also sprinklers spraying us down, though at this point the water felt refreshing. Once my team got through this obstacle, we continued on, picking up a marked trail which extended what seemed to be about a mile. During the run, however, our team had it’s first incident. With a rolled ankle, our teammate sat on the ground and began massaging the area while we judged whether he needed First Aid or not. While we were waiting, we could see the next obstacle nearby: Arctic Enema, a colored ice bath which runners needed to submerge themselves in to come out on the other side of a wall. It would mark the first time we were to be soaked rather than sprayed with water. Things were about to get real.
Would our teammate continue? How many more would suffer injury? Would the Arctic Enema mark the beginning of the end of me? Find out in Part 2.