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…