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
Last week, I gave an overview on a 10 mile race called “Tough Mudder” that bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” This week, I’ll break down the specific obstacles that made me say “probably not.”
The start of the race was impressive. We hiked up steep vertical for about 10 minutes while a charismatic announcer gave us the skinny: if you’re pregnant, don’t go through the electrical shock obstacle because it’s like being inside a microwave. Duh. If you brought gloves to wear (tighter fitting mechanic-like gloves), pat yourself on the back. If you didn’t, say “that was stupid” (after which a few hundred people obediently chanted). After the national anthem and a bang, we were off. Our team choose a steady shuffle for the descent, of which I wholeheartedly approved of as a few of the more aggressive and less coordinated runners ate dirt HARD.
After the hill, we hiked up the better part of a blue (intermediate) ski run before coming to the icy ponds. The first was a huge muddy hole about chest-deep. I half-swam, half-ran through the pond until a banged my shin hard on a massive boulder completely hidden by the murky water. It felt how I always imagined a certain fall while climbing: the one where you clear a ledge and take a whipper (fall) and bang your shins at a steep 45° angle into a 90° rock corner. And I have the scar to prove it.
The pond with barrels to swim under came immediately after the mud hole. If you missed last week, a photo and synopsis of this obstacle is there. What I didn’t mention is the hundreds of heat foils laying on the ground and bushes immediately after the barrel pond. I got a hand out of the pond (there was actually a surplus of hands from male non-team members throughout the race. Very gentlemanly.) and wrapped myself in a foil for a few minutes before we all started running again to heat up.
The first aid station was awesome – electrolyte drinks, water and cliff blocks. All the aid stations after this featured water and bananas and I didn’t even need to break out the packet of Justin’s honey and peanut butter I had on me in case of bonking.
But I know what you really care about is the obstacles. Quite frankly, there were quite a few weak attempts before the next obstacle of note. On the way up to a wooden tank, an elderly lady with perfectly coiffed hair and a sun umbrella leaned over from the sidelines (crowds were gathered at a few key obstacles) and yelled in my face, “you go girl!”. If made me feel good. But then my killer logo recognition made me feel bad. Piled in front of the tank were hundreds of plastics bag sporting a cute little polar bear. They were ice bags. I climbed the wooden slats to the edge of the tank and confirmed my suspicions with an added bonus – the water was glowing. The tank I was about to plunge into was bright red, but the one next door was neon green and next to that an electric blue.
Note to the coordinators of Tough Mudder: my skin massively freaked out after this race. Super, painfully dry. I blame the dye in this obstacle.
But there’s more! The Tough Mudder eval concludes right here, next week.
Recipe-of-the-day: I find solace in chocolate and this one is from the lady herself: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake by Martha Stewart. Don’t worry – it has video.
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!