Tough Mudder Tips

I ran my Tough Mudder in the following…

  • Adidas Climacool Fitted Jersey (team uniform).
  • UnderArmour ColdGear long-sleeve top underneath.
  • Brooks quick-drying Running Shorts.
  • UnderArmour ColdGear leggings underneath.
  • A pair of lightweight Nike Dri-fit fingerless workout gloves.
  • Dri-fit socks.
  • New Balance Cross Country Racing flats.

UA ColdGear: I had read mixed suggestions about UnderArmour ColdGear, because it’s slightly more absorbent than some other fast-drying fabrics, but I really believe this UA gear kept me warm(ish) as long as possible. The fact is, you will be very cold at some parts of the race, regardless of what you wear. However, my ColdGear dried very quickly and kept me considerably warmer (perhaps “not freezing” is a better description) in the earlier part of the race.

Racing flats: My flats were so lightweight, the water essentially added no weight to them. I highly recommend wearing the lightest (while still supportive) shoes you own. The last thing you want is to feel like you’re running with bricks strapped to your feet for 12+ miles.

Dri-fit Gloves: Gloves were helpful for one big reason, and one smaller reason. The smaller reason is that it will help save your hands when climbing over walls. They do not, I repeat, do not help on the monkey bars. I read this in many places before my race and it was true. Some bars are greased up and even expensive gloves will not combat that. The big reason the gloves were helpful was warmth! Even wearing wet gloves, my hands were incredibly warmer than when I took them off for certain obstacles. Your hands are a crucial part of many obstacles, take care of them and keep them warm!

All other items: No complaints about my other gear. As a general rule, wear as little cotton as possible, preferably NONE AT ALL. Cotton is super-absorbent and will be the death of you on this course.

Any obstacle that requires crawling/running in mud: Place your arms and/or legs down gently. There are often large rocks and boulders that will hurt if you aren’t careful.

Arctic Enema: I would say train with cold showers (as I did), but it didn’t help all that much. What it did help was to teach me that even if your breathing is out of control (which it will be during this obstacle), that you’re okay and just need a few seconds to catch it. I saw some people trying to climb out the sides or over the wall into the barbed wire. DO NOT panic like this. Jump in, catch your breath for a moment, dip under the wall, and get out fast. You’ll be fine. Also, make sure the person ahead of you is almost getting out when you jump in (some people got stuck in the tank because a person ahead of them was struggling to climb out).

Death March: Most people I saw walked this obstacle, so don’t feel ashamed if you have to take a break. I mixed running with walking, as long uphill stretches can destroy your calves and it was too early in the race to risk this.

Hold Your Wood: First, pick a reasonably-sized log. Don’t try to prove something by taking a huge one. Keep alternating shoulders and different grips to work different muscles and avoid exhaustion.

Everest: Spend a few minutes watching others run up. You’ll probably have to do this anyway as you wait your turn. Watching can help you find a good path with enough traction to get you up without a brutal fall. Certain parts of the quarterpipe will be more slippery than others, so it’s worth the wait to find that sweet spot. Then make eye contact with someone up top, and run for your life.

Electric Eel: This was a mystery obstacle for my race. The wires were just spread out enough that you could crawl very carefully in between them (if it’s a windy day, it’s a lost cause). By the end, however, the wires were too low, and I got shocked. My friend, however, didn’t. So it is possible to escape unscathed! Just crawl carefully and deliberately and you’ll manage. While the shock can be painful, it should be the least of your concerns in this race.

Monkey Bars and Rings: Get in a rhythm and hold on tight! If you have the grip strength, you can make it across, even on greased bars. Get a grip strengthener and use it whenever you’re sitting on the couch or watching TV. It’ll be pay dividends in your ability to cross these obstacles dryly. Also, only take one bar at a time, don’t alternate hands like you would at the playground. For the rings, I saw someone insert their entire arms in the rings up to their shoulders which seems like it would be better if your grip is exhausted. On the swing, they would slide their arm in the ring and remain suspended, holding onto both rings in their armpits until they were ready to move on.

Twinkle Toes: Use a ‘T’ foot stance. Your front foot should be facing forward, and your back foot should be perpendicular to your front foot, across the bar. After each step you take with your front foot, close the gap with your back foot. Your arms should be at 45 degree angles downward. When the bar begins to sway a lot, stop moving forward and focus on swaying your legs with the bar until it stabilizes, then continue.

Electroshock Therapy: Do not sprint through this obstacle. If you do and you get shocked, you will faceplant and end up on YouTube. Enter the obstacle at a jogging pace with your head down slightly and arms in front, protecting your face from the wires. It also helps to be wearing long sleeves/leggings because I suspect it reduces the shock somewhat. If you get shocked, just keep moving. If you fall, try to get back up because being continuously shocked in a crawling position makes it more difficult to make forward progress. If you’re standing you can build up more momentum to push you through the rest of the wires.

Good luck and remember to share this experience with people; it’s great to run in small groups!

If you’ve already run a Tough Mudder, please share any tips you have in the comments!

Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor cont’d 3

And so begins the final chapter of the Tough Mudder saga. Refer to Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 for the rest of this story.

I had just gotten out of the Electric Eel obstacle and felt something similar to a sheet of ice on my chest. In reality, crawling in the obstacle’s super-shallow water (heated by the sun), magnified the chill in the air as soon as I stood up. I had been shaking from the cold for over an hour straight and this experience made it no easier to cope. After catching up with my friend ,we continued on the trail for some time. He had been experiencing gradually more severe knee pain for quite some time, and it was around this point that he could no longer run well. We paused at the next First Aid tent so he could get his knee wrapped, as I contemplated grabbing a space blanket to fight off the cold. I joked that I may give in, and the First Aid guy replied “You can’t puss out now.” I was slightly taken aback at this ironic response from the Medic, but I laughed and replied that he alone had convinced me to cross the finish line without a hypothermia sheet. I decided shortly after that it may have been a foolish decision, but we were so close to completing the race, I figured I may as well finish as the toughest Mudder I could be. It didn’t help that these last few miles were littered with abandoned space blankets almost within grasp. I fought back the temptation several times, even grabbing one at one point, after which I realized I had absolutely no energy to even untangle it and wrap it around myself. I tossed it and kept moving, but I couldn’t focus on much except how cold I was. Not too long after the First Aid tent, my friend tore off his knee wrap; it was soggy and wasn’t helping the pain whatsoever. After this point, we would begin alternating our running with power-walking. This helped the pain in his knee, as well as the aches in my own body (hip and foot arch at this point). However, the walking was a death sentence on its own. After a few intervals of alternating, it was becoming ever more clear that my muscles were becoming solid rocks when we weren’t running.

Pushing on, we reached a set of much higher Berlin Walls (see Part 2). These were seemingly impossible to get over alone. Everyone that I saw was enlisting the help of others to push them up and over the walls. I was immediately offered help by another Mudder, so him and my friend lifted me up and over. At the peak of the first wall, I realized how weak my arms were this late in the course and actually starting collapsing down in s..l..o..w..m..o..t..i..o..n.. until my friend noticed and pushed me back up again. After these walls we hit the Funky Monkey:

I had read a lot about this obstacle. There were many strategies to get across, but I settled on the traditional one. There were several things I was sure of as I approached this obstacle. (1) It was clear that many people were falling in. (2) Some of the monkey bars were clearly greased. (3) I did NOT, I repeat NOT want to get wet again. With that in mind I tested to see if I could reach more then one bar out, but decided it was too risky and began on the first bar. Swung to the second. Feeling good. Third. Man there’s a lot of bars. Fourth. I’m getting pretty high here. Fif…splash. I wish I could explain what happened but I have no idea. My grip must have totally given out, and I was in waist deep water (up to my neck after the fall). Furious, I quickly swam to the other side where my friend awaited (considerably drier than I), and shouted “Let’s go” while shaking at full force once again. Not a quarter mile later we hit some mud Trenches:

a.k.a. more waist-deep water. At the bottom of these trenches were many unexpected drops in depth and large boulders. There’s always a painful surprise just around the corner at Tough Mudder! I made my way very carefully through these, afraid I’d twist an ankle this late in the game. I also think this was the point in the course at which I developed this uncontrollable grunting with every step I took. I took a rare moment to chuckle at myself because I was being so noisy and couldn’t even help it. Continuing the rapid succession of obstacles, Hanging Tough came next:

This one was very much like Funky Monkey except you were swinging from ring to ring. I’ll save you the time and cut to the chase: if you know how Funky Monkey ended for me, this one ended exactly the same. Again, pulled myself out of a frigid pool of water thinking “Should’ve worked with that damn grip strengthener more.” Onto a short trail and around a corner, and we almost immediately hit Twinkle Toes:

As we walked to the start, I heard someone say that Electroshock Therapy was next! This meant I was within reach of the finish line! It also meant that this was the last water obstacle. Part of me had accepted that I could very well end up soaked again. Being so close to finishing made it a slightly less painful thought. My body was exhausted, but my mind was racing. Do. Not. Fall. After waiting in a short line, a man behind me gave my friend and I a tip about our foot positioning. Only one person was crossing at a time, so we took a moment to practice the posture. I could see, once again, that many people were falling in. The bars swayed a lot towards the center. Rapidly, back and forth, back and forth they swayed (a result of the wind, and of people shaking on the beams). They shook so much that it seemed almost everyone on the bars was being tossed off in the center. And then it was my turn. I stepped out onto the beam, repeating my new mantra. “Do NOT get wet. Do NOT get wet.” I kept my knees slightly bent to maintain balance, but could immediately feel the strain on my quads after the many miles we had already run. I worried my legs would be too weak, but I pushed forward. Front foot forward, back foot followed, never crossing the feet. I’d say it was more of a shuffle than a walk. As I approached the center, the sway began. It got gradually worse, until in the very center of the beam I had to stop my forward motion and literally sway my legs with the beam to avoid falling off. This obstacle was more like a live-action physics puzzle than anything else. My legs were swaying what felt like 6 inches in either direction, very quickly. I lowered my body (and thus center of gravity) a tiny bit more and was miraculously able to hold this position until the swaying lessened. What felt like 10 minutes later (but was probably literally 5 minutes, still a long time), I was across and not dripping wet! I could not believe I had made it across while people around me fell over and over again. My friend, who was waiting on the other side, received a more joyous “Let’s go!” this time. And before we knew it, we were at the dreaded, infamous torture machine that is Electroshock Therapy:

Surprisingly, I didn’t think twice about this obstacle. I was more exhausted, cold, and achy than I had ever been in my life. I had also already been shocked in Electric Eel, which I felt was more nerve-racking than ET because we were in the vulnerable prone position vs. running. And so the obstacle that I feared for months, the one that fueled the irrational fear that perhaps I had a long-hidden heart condition, and the one that was simply impossible to train for, didn’t phase me one bit. I lined up in front of it, mentally marked the path my friend had taken and survived, and ran. I just ran. Not too fast that if I got shocked I would fall or faceplant (like so many before me), and not too slow that I prolonged contact with the wires. Just a brisk jog. I entered the wires with my head down and my arms out slightly to protect it, leaping over the hay bales on the ground (preventing anyone from attempting to crawl underneath the wires), and exited the other side. Just one moderately painful shock to my elbow. Again, I praise my ColdGear and really do believe it insulated me a bit from the disabling shocks I had witnessed.

And just like that, I was out of the wires and crossing the finish line. I was a Tough Mudder. I forced a smile at the photographer shoving his camera in my face, and made my way directly to a girl holding a space blanket. She quickly wrapped it around me and tied it at my neck. Another girl came over and put the Tough Mudder headband (the ever-prestigious finisher’s award) on my head. As I walked around the finisher’s area, I was offered (and gladly accepted) bananas, free protein bars in unlimited quantity, samples of other protein products, and of course, the “free” beer. I grabbed the beer, did a quick cheers with my friend, and took a small sip. The last thing I wanted at that moment was a cold beer. Not to mention, my hands were shaking so violently that I was spilling everywhere, so I tossed it in the trash and grabbed another space blanket, wrapping this one around my legs. I was totally covered in shiny silver blankets, and I must say they worked amazingly well. Though I was cold at the core for several hours after the race, those blankets worked remarkably well to take the edge off. I previously thought I would want to stick around for a bit after the race, but I wanted to get home and warm ASAP.

It was almost a three hour drive home, but I never once took off my headband, my pride.

So ends my Tough Mudder saga, ladies and gentlemen. I have never been prouder of myself (this is no exaggeration). It was a test of strength and endurance, both physical and mental. By completing this course I have proven to myself that I can truly do anything I set my mind to. For a long time in my life, I felt as if I had grown too content with never challenging myself or holding myself to a high standard. I never stepped out of my comfort zone. I really believe, however, that the day of my Tough Mudder marked a turning point in my life. I can do and accomplish whatever I want to. And so can you.

So tell me, when will you become a Tough Mudder?

Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor cont’d 2

So we continue with the third chapter (of four) of my Tough Mudder saga. Refer to Part 1 and Part 2 for the rest of this story. And yes, this story deserves four posts.

We left off with some slight aches and pains in my joints and me hoping for some water soon. I had just completed Devil’s Beard and continued pounding away on the merciless paved pathway. My friend and I had run in direct sunlight for some time before reaching another obstacle. So much sunlight, in fact, that underneath my UnderArmour ColdGear and Dri-Fit shirt, I was beginning to feel hot. We reached Hold Your Wood shortly after:

This obstacle presented a challenge because the logs were deceiving. They were incredibly dense, and therefore way heavier than they looked. I grabbed a log that I felt was proportionate to my frame size and started moving. The distance of this obstacle felt like it could have been a third to a half mile long; it was difficult to judge because we were lugging this heavy wood on our shoulders. I coped well by alternating shoulders. However, as my friend and I finished the loop and went to drop our wood on the pile to be taken again, we saw our team approaching, so we decided to do the loop again. Unfortunately, I had already handed off my wood, so I grabbed another one I felt looked reasonable, but it ended up being way heavier. I was switching shoulders way more often the second lap, but I nevertheless finished it without a break. We moved on as a team, but ended up splitting again due to our difference in running speeds.  We hit The Spider’s Web next:

It was directly after a water/banana station, which provided some much-needed hydration and potassium (good for cramps). Again, the teamwork at this obstacle was awesome. Mudders who had made it over were pulling the net down with their body weight to make the net taut and easier to climb. Those who made it over would switch with those that held it for them. This was the epitome of Tough Mudder: camaraderie. It really became clear that we were all in this together; it was a challenge for us all to complete, not a race. After holding the net for a few Mudders, we kept on running. The aches in my legs had subsided somewhat and I was still pumped, so I kept pushing without a problem.

Then came water, and things went all downhill (figuratively, certainly not literally) from there. Walk the Plank:

Though the one at Pocono Manor was considerably higher than the one in this photo, I was looking forward to this obstacle. After climbing up some very steep wooden boards, we reached the top, where several guys in military uniform (presumably Marines) shouted at us to stop thinking and jump. I had no hesitation (as a lifeguard for many years, I was no stranger to the high dive), and leapt in, glad to be getting wet again. The water was cold, as expected, but it was only when I swam around and exited the water that I realized how much the wind had picked up. It was immediately whipping around, and I was shivering violently in seconds. I felt like Will Ferrel in ‘Anchorman’, thinking “I immediately regret this decision.” We kept running, but my body was not liking one moment of this experience. Even though the lake water wasn’t iced (that I could tell), I felt exponentially colder than I had felt after Arctic Enema (iced water). Through some ankle-deep mud and woods, and then came Everest (suitable considering how frigid I was):

There was a slight backup of people at this obstacle, so we had a moment to catch our breath and assess where the best place to run up the quarter pipe was. There was a big section in the middle with the “Degree” logo, and a white strip on both sides. It seemed like the white strips were slicker than the middle section (though perhaps they just looked cleaner; it’s hard to be sure of anything when you’re shaking and praying for warmth). I lined up with the middle section, made eye contact with someone up top, and charged the quarter pipe. I was on track to grab the edge and pull myself up (brought me back to my skater days), but as I planted my foot to launch, it slipped on what felt like grease. Luckily, during the moment I was in mid air, a guy grabbed my arm and pulled me up and over the edge in one swift motion. I knew I didn’t have the body weight to support most of the guys running up, so rather than help others, my friend and I continued on our way. On the way down from Everest, we spotted several gallon jugs of vegetable oil (tricky, tricky). Next came Electric Eel (a mystery obstacle that we had heard about the previous day):

This was also the first electric obstacle. It required crawling in a shallow pool of water under live wires (some charged to “10,000 volts” as advertised by Tough Mudder). In the beginning, the wires were pretty high and could easily be ducked under or crawled around, but as you neared the end of the obstacle, they hung too low to avoid. I was doing a really good job weaving in-between wires until that point. I must have shifted my leg the wrong way, because suddenly I was jolted with a shock (somewhat painful, but more surprising). I definitely think wearing the UnderArmour protected me from a direct skin shock, which I think would have hurt significantly more. I spent a moment to reevaluate my strategy, and then continued. I received at least one more mild shock (which I think was actually someone else’s shock that traveled through the water) before pulling myself out of the obstacle. The water in Electric Eel, because it was so shallow, was incredibly warm. This was pleasurable for the 45 seconds I spent in the obstacle, and a nightmare after (think getting out of a hot tub in the middle of winter). I think this rapid temperature change did me in. I was still shaking, and despite the constant motion, my muscles were beginning to severely tighten, and there was no stopping them.

I was only six obstacles from the finish line, four of which were water obstacles. I didn’t know it was possible at the time, but I’d be getting even colder. As the wind continued to pick up, I made my way out of Electric Eel and onto the trail. I had made it through many difficult tests already, but the final exam was about to begin.

Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor cont’d

We left off Part 1 with a teammate on the ground clutching his ankle, and the frigid waters of the Arctic Enema awaiting. It is here that we pick up the story of our soon-to-be frozen heros:

After several minutes and a few photos (must take advantage of every photo op), my teammate was up and moving around, testing out his ankle. A different friend and I, in light of this promising sign of recovery, marched on towards the Arctic Enema. As we approached the obstacle, the only way to judge which dumpster was full of which color (if you read Part 1, you know we were trying to avoid the blue one) was to watch the splashes of previous Mudders. Once we determined which was orange, climbed up onto the ledge, waited for a clear landing space, and leapt into the ice bath. This image sums up the sensation that followed:

I had heard that this obstacle was by far the worst of them all. I must say, it was something like being instantly frozen solid, but it wasn’t the worst, for a few reasons. First, it was the second obstacle. We were still high on adrenaline from beginning this race, and we were warm. The water obstacles would become exponentially worse three hours later when we were shaking uncontrollably and falling into water again and again. So I would definitely not pin this as the worst obstacle. It was actually really invigorating and got us all ready to let the torture begin! Anyway, so we jumped in, and as I was underwater I decided to immediately swim under the wall. Most Mudders jump in, catch their breath, then dip under and pass the wall. I just jumped so far that I figured it’d be easier to catch my breath on the other side of the wall. So I swam under, and had no problem climbing out and jogging around a few minutes waiting for my whole team to get through. I was amazed at how spending just 15 seconds in water that cold could literally numb what felt like an inch into my body, and it would stay that way for a several minutes.

The trails that followed (for quite some time) were incredibly rocky. There was a narrow strip of flat dirt towards the side, but the stones were unavoidable. So for what felt like several miles, we were running down a trail just asking for a sprained ankle, and did see several people tripping or sitting on the side. We had to slowly cross a flowing stream with mossy rocks at one point, and the cold water actually felt good on my feet. Some time after the stream we hit a series of short Berlin Walls:

These walls were no problem. We were all able to jump and scale them independently (the larger walls would come later). There were three walls and then we were able to continue on the trail. We were all pretty much feeling good at this point, though many of my teammates were beginning to fall behind. So one teammate and I (in the spirit of staying challenged) picked up the pace slightly around a few turns and found ourselves crawling through some muddy trench tunnels. When first entering the tunnels it was pitch black, but about halfway I started to see the light on the other side. The mud in these tunnels was very soft, which was pleasant but a bit deceiving, as there were some large rocks in the mud. The next few obstacles came in quick succession. The Death March, a never-ending rocky uphill stretch:

Then came the Mud Mile. I was genuinely impressed with how much soft ankle-deep mud they were able to create. There was no way to safely run through this, and I didn’t seen anyone try. Everyone stepped slowly and carefully (as boulders underneath the mud often meant slipping and sliding). It went on for some time, and was a welcome break after the Death March (which I actually powered through and ran most of, though nearly all the other Mudders walked). After the Mud Mile came another uphill and then Fire Walker:

This was just an obstacle for the nose and eyes. There was a clear path through the flaming whatever-it-is, but it was completely smoked out. It wasn’t worth fumbling with my shirt to cover my nose and mouth (considering there was a professional photographer, read: photo op, on the other side), so my friend and I just sprinted through it. It stung the eyes a bit, and smelled pretty bad, but again it was barely a challenge. We jumped over the little line of fire on the other end and kept on truckin’. After another mile or so, we hit a First-Aid and Water Station. They were giving out energy Gummys so I grabbed a few packets of those, emptied them into my mouth, and chugged a cup of water. My friend and I decided to wait for the rest of the team at this point, but when they took longer than we expected at the station, we continued on our way. It also seemed like the team was splitting into little groups at this point so we felt it would be alright if we kept on pushing through the challenge. Following the water station, the course picked up on a paved path (felt horrible on the joints, which were beginning to get a little sore). Weaving around, up and down, this stretch of running probably took more of a toll on my energy than the lengthy trail runs did. We were, however, beginning to dry up a bit because we had not encountered another water obstacle yet. I would almost say I felt comfortable during this time. We hit Devil’s Beard next:

This obstacle might have been harder, had there not been so much teamwork going on. The net was tied very taut, so you could feel the downward pressure as you moved forward. But Mudders stood long the net and held it up for passersby. The expectation was that those who were holding the net up would be relieved by those they were holding it up for. This cycle of charity worked surprisingly well for a group of macho strangers. I passed through the net, held it up for a few minutes, then continued on my way. I was beginning to get slight aches in my legs at this point, so I was hoping that water would come soon (hoping the cold would numb them a bit).

It would come shortly, and boy would I regret it. The next water obstacle that came just a few miles later would mark the turning point of the race for me: when I would start shaking, and never stop. When it seemed like the water obstacles kept on coming. It would quickly become apparent that Tough Mudder was playing games with us. This first half of the race was a breeze. The second half would change all of that.

Continue to Part 3

Tough Mudder 2012 PA #1 – April 29 – Pocono Manor

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.

It has come.

Mark your calendars. On Sunday at 8:40 AM, I’ll be at the starting line of the Tough Mudder. If I never post again, you’ll know why. That’ll be all for now.

Tough Mudder Tuesday #5

Less than two weeks to go and I’m finally kicking my ass into gear. I’ve been lifting, running, or biking almost every day and I’m feeling a little more confident (though not much). My only hope is that I’m not the slowest on my 11-person team. I am not in prime shape for this event, and I know that I will not be on race day, I just want to be able to keep moving. I’ll certainly be taking advantage of any lulls or breaks before obstacles, and surely at water stations. Though my concerns change literally every day, at the moment they are calf-cramps (which I’ve never had a problem with before, but I hear is prevalent in this kind of event), and ankle sprains (am I paranoid, or what?).

I’m still taking cold showers each day, which have been unbelievably refreshing. Turning the knob to 100% cold seemed impossible during cold shower #1, and just a few weeks later, it’s the most pleasurable and confidence-boosting part of the shower. I never, ever thought I’d say that a cold shower felt good, and I still won’t. I would say they feel amazing. Since I learned to coach myself through them and slow my breathing, it seems almost as if I’m tricking my brain into thinking it’s not cold water. An oddly powerful feeling accompanies that ability to trick and/or self-regulate my body’s reactions. I feel like David Blaine.

I’m getting pumped and scared simultaneously, but overall I’m excited and anxious. One thing is sure: it will be quite an experience. I hope somebody takes pictures!

Tough Mudder Tuesday #4

It has been a rough few weeks for training between what is going on at school and some personal things. I have not run in over a week, and probably only ran once in the week prior to that. I have, however, been strength training a bit here and there. I finally got out this morning; it certainly didn’t feel great while running but it’s always the minute I get home and catch my breath. The problem is I haven’t been running consistently enough to feel great during my runs. Tomorrow marks a month until the race, which gives me about 30 days to train. I’ve read very mixed messages about how to train. Some people say run, run, run. Other people say focus on the lifting. My educated guess is that running is less important than strength and/or muscle endurance because obstacles are generally only .5-1 mile apart. Some obstacles, from what I’ve read, will have short waits (a.k.a. recovery time) if there is some backup. It also appears that people take rests at water stations. So in my mind, the ability to run 11 miles straight comfortably isn’t key to finishing this event. I’ve read being able to comfortably run 3-5 miles will do just fine (the website suggests 5-7).

What I’m most nervous about (oddly) is the frigid water. In LITERALLY (yes, the ‘L’ word) every single one of the blog posts I’ve read about the Tough Mudder, people relay their accounts of the absolute shock of the water temperature. Multitudes of people around them panicking and being pulled out by lifeguards, some being hospitalized. So during my shower two weeks ago, I turned the water all the way cold…

My lungs immediately felt like they had collapsed and I started to hyperventilate. Five seconds in and I was dizzy and I had to turn the water back to warm. I imagine that my water at its coldest is probably 15-20 degrees warmer than the water at Tough Mudder. It occurred to me then that the water might be what kills this race for me. So I started training… Each weekday (I treat myself on weekends) I start my shower with slightly cold water. The moment I adjust, I drop the temperature. And again. And again. I’m almost able to handle the totally cold water. It’s surprisingly invigorating and I feel warmer when I get out of the shower. I do know that I won’t have time to adjust when I’m leaping into a pond of 30 degree water, but I’m going to try and slowly lower my starting temperature until I can deal with cold water. Period.

I can’t believe it’s a month away. My team of 12 has suffered some setbacks and injuries, and some people seem less than prepared, so it seems we’ll all be struggling together. I guess that’s the point though, isn’t it?

Prosetentially Famous

I’m pleased to announce the birth of the creative lovechild of several bloggers, myself included. Teacher Girl and I, in our busy lives,  somehow managed to carry this idea from inception all the way to fruition (quite an accomplishment in the lives of 20-somethings). We lassoed in a couple more awesome bloggers, and Prosetentially Famous was born! PF is a creative writing blog where you can read our poetry, flash fiction, memoir-style prose, among other forms of creative writing. As bloggers/writers, we are all super excited to get this off the ground, so if you are interested please check it out! You can comment, read, or add our feed (I rhymed)! Even if creative writing is not usually your thing, you’re bound to find a piece that you like!

We are also willing to consider additional bloggers who are interested in joining the PF crew (the more the merrier). If you enjoy creative writing and want to get your work out there on Prosetentially Famous, let myself or Teacher Girl know! Now go ahead and visit…


You know you want to.

KONY 2012

For those of you who have not yet heard of Joseph Kony or the “KONY 2012” campaign, you will. Even if you turn away from this blog right now, by the end of 2012 you’ll know.

About eight years ago, a documentary called “Invisible Children” opened my eyes to the atrocities occurring in Africa (specifically Uganda and its neighboring countries). I won’t delve into details about that documentary, but I will say that since that film, a non-profit foundation under the same name has formed. Not everyone agrees with the mission of this organization, how they allocate their funds, or whether we have any business in African affairs at all. Some people feel that their latest campaign, which you’ll learn about in a minute, is an effort to militarize an already-unstable country. To some extent, this is not totally inaccurate. However, to that I respond that the conditions over there warrant whatever is necessary to equip the Ugandans well enough to solve their own problem: Joseph Kony. Who is Joseph Kony? You’re about to find out.