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?