Or…101 ways to get a staph infection.
Tough Mudder is no joke. It is also the most fun you will ever have. If you have ever considered doing one, read on. I’ll try my best to give an accurate overview of the experience. If you are looking for an excuse to NOT do one, read on. I’ll try my best to give an accurate overview of the experience. (*wink*)
Above is the list of obstacles for Tough Mudder Wisconsin. However, this list is a bit misleading. For example, the very first obstacle was an 8 foot wall we had to get over…in order to get to the starting line. Seriously. And then there were all the water crossings that aren’t on the official obstacle list. And it isn’t like the course is flat. We are zigzagging through fields, woods and up and down hills. The course was more than 11 miles and there weren’t two consecutive steps that were flat!
Pre-race fuel…peanut butter sandwich!
The crew that we ran with!
The entire team…Vintage Bike on a Balloon.
This map shows the first 3.5 miles. (The square numbers are mile markers and the round numbers are the obstacles.) After we got over the first wall to the start line, we gathered to listen to some last minute instructions, sing the National Anthem, and recite the Tough Mudder Pledge.
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.
Then, we were off! The event releases participants in different waves. There is no way that the course could handle all the traffic if everyone left at the same time. So, every 20 minutes or so, several hundred runners would take off.
Kiss of Mud–Eat dirt as you crawl commando-style under barbed wire set 8 inches from the ground. This obstacle is true to it’s name – Mudders must belly-crawl through mud in order to avoid getting snagged by the barbed wire above. On some courses, the Kiss of Mud is set on an uphill, increasing the level of difficulty. To prepare for this obstacle, start crawling in any mud you come across, or, do our Tough plank series (alternating low & high planks – fast!).
The Kiss of Mud challenge wasn’t too difficult. I did get muddy. I did feel my back side catching on the wire a couple times. But, they aren’t totally sadistic; there is a non-barbed-wire a bit lower than the barbed wire, so it acts a bit like a ‘warning track’ would in baseball. It lets you know that you are running out of room.
High Steppin’-The official website doesn’t have a description of this obstacle. Basically, it is a serious of hip-high walls that you need to jump over.
This is another obstacle that wasn’t too challenging, although I did change my technique about halfway through. I started by jumping up and placing one foot on top of the wall to push off. I decided that method wasn’t very efficient. Instead, I used my hands to push off and I spun over each wall. I imagine I looked like a drunk ballerina twirling over each wall, but it was much faster and saved on energy output.
Mud Mile–Slosh through up to a mile of waist-deep sludge as you try not to lose your shoes in the mud. Balance and coordination are required if you want to make it through this obstacle without face-planting… but what’s the fun in that? Real Mudders eat mud for breakfast. On some courses, Mudders will encounter obstructions throughout Mud Mile that require them to fully submerge in the mud to slosh onward.
This challenge was a bit tougher. It wasn’t necessarily physically demanding, although you needed a good bit of strength. The hardest part was how slippery it was. This was also the first obstacle where you realized exactly how dirty and wet you were going to get! It was really tough to get over those mounds. You kept slipping backwards. And jumping into the water was interesting, because you never really knew how deep it was going to be.
After this obstacle, my shoes and socks were full of little rocks. I ended up having to stop twice to clean them out. I wasn’t going to take a chance on getting blisters. I believe that it was after the Mud Mile, that we hid to run up this hill. It was so trampled and muddy from everyone who went before us, that I was literally digging my claws into the ground to keep from sliding backwards.
Berlin Walls–This obstacle relies on teamwork. Scale three 12′ wooden walls with the help of your teammates, strategically placed for when you are at your weakest during the event. While some Mudders have worked up the strength to ascend the walls alone, most need a boost from a fellow Mudder — they got your back, literally.
Here is where the rubber hit the road for me. I have NO upper body strength. There was no way I was going to be able to get over these walls without my teammates. I completed this event with three other women and four guys (including Tim). For each of the Berlin Walls, the guys would set up at the bottom and boost the women over. Now, the boost is what got you high enough to reach the top, but you still had to pull yourself over. I would swing one leg over while hanging on with my armpits. Then, I would sit myself up, straddling the wall and gently bring my other leg around. I would hang from my armpits again and then slowly lower myself down until I could drop safely.
This was one of the obstacles where I was afraid of hurting myself. I was convinced that I would end up dropping less than gracefully and twist an ankle. Fortunately, the only injuries from this particular obstacle are the ugly bruises under my arms from hanging on the tops of the walls.
Underwater Tunnels–Bob underneath rows of floating barrels as you battle the frigid water temperatures. This obstacle requires mental grit, as extreme cold can be as challenging mentally as it is physically. Focus on breathing, and move quickly through the water to complete the Underwater Tunnels and warm up once you are ashore. You can prepare for this obstacle by swimming in ice-cold bodies of water, or taking cold showers. Try to regulate your breathing and control your heart rate in order to acclimate your body to cold water conditions.
This obstacle threw me for more of a loop than I thought it would. I could see, as we approached the pond, that there were three sets of barrels that we would have to go under. What I didn’t realize was that the water was 8 feet deep and I wouldn’t be able to touch the bottom. That made it a bit more difficult. And, the water was pretty cold.
I ended up going under in between the barrels. That way, I was able to grab onto the brackets and guide myself under that way. It’s hard to swim with shoes on.
Arctic Enema–This obstacle is all about mental grit. Many athletes use ice baths for recovery, but you’ll have a difficult time relaxing your muscles in this frigid dumpster. First you must bravely jump into Big Mudder’s floating iceberg abyss. Once submerged, find the mental and physical strength to swim through the ice, under a wooden plank and pull yourself out on the other end before you become hypothermic.
This obstacle scared me. I knew it was going to be cold. I knew that my muscles were going to seriously contract and probably stop working. The goal was to jump as close to the center plank as possible. That way I wouldn’t have to spend any additional time in the water getting close to the middle. After I went under the plank I tried as hard as I could to get to the other end of that dumpster. I swear, they found extra-long dumpsters somewhere! My legs were revolting against me. I could feel my core body temperature plummeting. I was screaming profanities. I couldn’t get out of that water fast enough. There was no standing around after this one. Everyone started running again as quickly as possible to get the blood flowing. It sorta worked. My ass was numb for the next 3/4 mile.
Bale Bonds–Hurl yourself over (or through) a stack of hay bales – and watch out for the pitchfork inside! You’ll need a strong core to get over this mountain and help your teammates complete this obstacle. The hay bales present a unique challenge with an uneven surface and loose hay making it difficult for Mudders to get a good grip while climbing. Once you get to the top, help Mudders behind you by giving them a hand! You can train for Bale Bonds by strengthening your core with planks, side planks and dips.
This challenge wasn’t that physically demanding. Basically, it was a bunch of round hay bales stacked haphazardly, and you had to climb over them. The climb was quite steep, but I was able to motor myself to the top without any assistance. For once, I got to offer assistance to others. Going down on the other side was even more steep. This was definitely another challenge where I was concerned about turning an ankle. (crisis averted!)
So, that is the story of the first 3+ miles. At this point, I was feeling pretty good. The running sections were relatively short and I wasn’t struggling at all to keep up. Because everyone runs at different speeds, our group would spread out on the running sections and then regroup for the obstacles. That way, you would get a mini-break before every obstacle. It was a nice chance to catch your breath.