Welcome to the not-so-epic conclusion of Tough Mudder! I last left off berating the Chernobyl jacuzzi for drying out my skin, but I have not yet addressed the obstacle that gave me the most anxiety before the race: the 12 foot high walls.
Aptly named the “Berlin Walls,” the wooden planks were distinctly void of ropes, ladders or handholds. While I had trouble finding pictures of the walls, I bet even the least imaginative can image a 12 foot tall wall. My anxiety was due to the fact that I cannot solo get myself over a 12 foot wall, but luckily this was a team-oriented event. While our method for getting over the wall varied, the easiest for me was when two people clasped their hands together and I put one foot in each hand. Once I got my hands on the top of the wall with my body weight moving in that direction, I could push all the way up. On the top, I straddled the wall then fully extended my body down the other side before dropping to my feet. However, I saw more than a few women yelling for help down the other side. Since I was down, I went over to one such woman and provided a spot used in rock climbing when someone is bouldering (climbing low elevation technical rock). The spot isn’t designed to ‘catch’ someone and doesn’t actually touch them until they are dropping, which is when the spotter ‘guides’ their descent so they don’t land flat on their back. But in this scenario, my spotting skills were grossly overlooked by someone judging me for my rather insubstantial size, which is a long way of saying this: a man on top of the wall who was apparently on the same team of the screaming woman took one look at me with my ‘boulder spot’ and started yelling “could I get some DUDES over here to help her?” Whatever man.
But the walls weren’t my only concern – I was a little worried about this whole ‘electric shock’ thing. The site showed live wires and touted 10,000 volts, which seemed like an awfully high number to me. Someone more electrically minded than myself said, “it’s not the volts you have to worry about – the amperage is what kills you.” Reasoning that it was unlikely that they would be ‘killing people’, my plan was to watch others go through it – if someone outweighing me by 100+ pounds was knocked down, I might just skip it.
However, by the time I actually reached the obstacle I formed a new plan; pick the biggest guy on the team, let him get a head start and run right behind him. It worked brilliantly and I may have been the only one on the team that didn’t get shocked.
My final pre-race anxiety was what to wear and I’m hoping this helps out future Tough Mudders. Beaver Creek, the ski resort where the race was held, has a base elevation of 8,100 feet and a summit elevation of 11,400 feet. At the end of June, those elevations are maybe starting to think about summer and the numerous water features had me more than a little concerned about hypothermia. I finally decided on my long REI cycling tights with neoprene shorts on top and my thinnest (hence quickest drying) synthetic Patagonia top. In hindsight, I would have ditched the shorts (they fell down when wet and running) and an even tighter shirt. I would recommend only skin-tight, synthetic clothing. Wet fabric flopping around is just annoying and clothing that has any extra room will shift when swimming. As for hypothermia, I did finish the race cold but not cold enough to lose motor function.
When all was said and done, I’m super glad I did the race and while it’s not all that ‘tough’, it has raised over $1.75 million dollars for the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps out severely injured service members and is the best reason to run I’ve heard in a long time.
Music-site-of-the-day: Songs to lie on your bed and stare at the ceiling to
On June 25th, 2011 I finished a 10-mile trail run with obstacles which bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet”. My short answer is, “probably not”.
As anyone who has been on www.ToughMudder.com can see, the hype for the race is high. For some people, this build-up is completely legitimate and it may be the toughest event they will ever do in their lives. But for others that have had ‘epics’ of some sort or another in the outdoor arena, no event can compare.
With an event like Tough Mudder, there is a built-in ‘stop’ button that is distinctly lacking in other arenas. For example, if you happen to be up on Buck Mountain in the Teton range and you slip on some rotten spring snow, you are completely and wholly responsible for self-arresting (aka stopping) yourself with an ice axe before sliding over a 50 ft. cliff. And should the worst not happen, you’ve now got a helicopter ride between you and serious medical attention.
In Tough Mudder, if you’re so exhausted to the point of losing bowel control (this happens in another tough event known as the Leadville 100, which is a 100 mile trail run), you can get a buddy to flag down an EMT on a 4-wheeler. But there was an unexpected consequence to the amount of control the event presented.
I discovered this gem of a surprise early into the race, probably somewhere in the second mile. The obstacle was swimming through a pond with three or four sets of big blue barrels strong across the surface of the 39° water (see photo). I plunged into the pond, took a breath and came up on the other side of the barrel with the start of a killer ice-cream headache. Now, my various whitewater exploits have led to way too much time in 39° water, but this was different. When you’re swimming a class IV/V rapid like Dowd Shoot during spring run off, there is no thought process in dunking your head underwater. The river takes care of that for you. But here, suddenly, I was in charge of what seemed like a very obvious decision – why would I choose to go underwater when I was perfectly capable of swimming on top, or better yet, getting out? Yet all around me, friends I have revered as intelligent beings were doing that very thing. This is when I realized there is a certain amount of self-discipline and yes, stupidity in the the whole ‘adventure race’ equation. Just call me stupid.
So what exactly made the race tough and what was silly? It’s all coming in photos galore (provided by the Tough Mudder webiste) next week right here.
Kitchen-gadget-of-the-day: Bodum Frother. Do you have one? Let me know how you like it!
After six full years in the valley of Jackson Hole, Mountain Kidd is relocating to the second biggest city in Wyoming. Since very few people know the second biggest city in Wyoming, I’ll just spill the beans; I’m moving to Casper.
Casper, Wyoming has a population of 53,500 according to the 2010 census. This is a significant number for Wyoming. And yes, I’ll still be “Mountain Kidd”. Casper is located at the north end of the Laramie mountain range. In this range is Casper Mountain, rising 3,000 feet above the city to a total of 8130 feet. 8130 is no Grand Teton. but that’s okay- I’ll adapt.
I’ve lived throughout the Rockies for over ten years and each town has pushed me to develop one skill set or another. In Vail, I was young and made bold job choices. Working full-time as a ski instructor Beaver Creek allowed me to become a technical, proficient skier very very quickly. When summer came around, I paid $200 to take a two-week training course as a whitewater rafting guide. At the end of the two weeks, everyone was granted an interview with the promise that about half of us would be hired on for the summer. With a customer service personality and a deep passion for water in all its forms, I got the job and spent the summer swimming rapids on the Eagle River (not on purpose) and guiding tourists down the Shoshone section of the Colorado. I also bought a whitewater kayak and found that I enjoyed the solidarity of kayaking even more than rafting
There was a brief stint swimming flood-stage whitewater on the New River in West Virgina, but it was clear that I needed to find my next mountain town ‘out west’. Vail was fantastic but I knew the fur coat party scene wasn’t for ultimately for me. I told people I wanted another ski town without so many people and more laid back. Those in the know all said “go to Jackson.” And to Jackson I went.
While Jackson has whitewater, it’s not near as plentiful or accessible as it is in Colorado. But we do have epic mountain biking. Armed with a tricked out Kona mountain bike as a college graduation gift, I took to the trails with vengeance and let whitewater fall to the wayside. I dare say the shift in focus fit my aging process as well. When things go ‘wrong’ on whitewater, it’s game on. The situation instantly becomes exponentially more serious and a rapid set of decisions needs to be made to ensure the continuation of life. As a raft guide, you may need to flip the raft, which involves climbing on top of an upside-down raft, attaching a rope to the side and pulling it on top of yourself as you go back into the water. After this, you need to collect your guests. There’s no question that it’s a high pressure situation. But with mountain biking, a wrong decisions leads to a glorious stand-still. Assuming your friend isn’t about to run you over, a crashed mountain biker can luxuriate in lying on the ground and doing a mental once-over before acting.
Of course, the winter months in Jackson are all about the skiing. I went from a good skier in Michigan to a good skier in Colorado (a considerable jump) during my time at Beaver Creek and I consider myself lucky to have had the time to cut my teeth before coming to Jackson. When people call it the best skiing in the lower 48, they’re right- if you can ski it. Jackson is steep and rugged with limited beginner and intermediate terrain. It’s one reason we’ll never get the skier numbers of Vail- which is fine by us locals. On drops where other resorts would issue series of flashing lights and multiple rope lines, Jackson puts a pole with a small orange “cliff” sign. Skiers that wander off the groomed trail, ski at your own risk. It’s fantastic skiing, but a minor knee injury and the cumulative effect of many long, hard winters has me thinking I may be able to live without flinging myself down mountains on two narrow sticks.
Casper does have world-class Nordic skiing. The Casper Nordic Center has 42 kilometers of groomed trails with a 1.2K lighted loop. So I’ll buy some Nordic gear for the winter months. Maybe I’ll help develop the mountain bike trails in the summer, but Casper does have a whitewater park on the downtown section of the Platte river- it’s fun without the consequences of class V rivers. And Jackson is an easy five-hour drive away. Maybe a mountain lifestyle has more to do with the person than the geographical location.
Nonprofit of the Day: Teton Valley Hapi Trails