Sometimes it really is about the journey and not about the destination. On Sunday, I completed my first Tough Mudder at Big Rock Offroad Park in Maysville, Kent., with teammates Grant, Colin and Rachel. The event is all about challenging yourself, overcoming fears, working together and feeling like a badass. It was a pretty crazy journey and a truly unique experience that I will never forget.
I studied the course map before the race but didn’t know what to fully expect until we got there. I was hoping to use it as my last long training run before the Monumental half, but we quickly realized there wouldn’t be much running. Obviously when you sign up for a race called the Tough Mudder, you should anticipate some mud. I thought the course itself wouldn’t be that bad though and we would be able to run a lot. It was insanely muddy. To the point where we were sliding all over the place, people were falling down constantly and very few Mudders were actually running. Oh yeah, it was also super hilly so that helped bump up the tough factor.
In a lot of ways, the course itself was harder for me than the obstacles were. It took every ounce of energy to keep from falling. I was so happy whenever we reached flat, grassy terrain.
To get to the start line, you have to scale a 6’ wall. It set the tone for teamwork right away as I needed a boost from my guys to get up. From there here’s how the day went:
Note: I link to pictures/videos of each obstacle on the general Tough Mudder site. Obstacles look a little different at each course based on the terrain, weather conditions, etc. You can see pictures from Sunday in Kentucky in their Facebook album.
- Glory Blades: Pretty straightforward except that the walls were angled. As with the start line, my guys gave me a boost and I was up and over fairly easy.
- Arctic Enema: This challenge lived up to the hype. You have to jump in a tub of ridiculously cold water full of ice, fully submerge yourself under a board in the middle and pop up the other side. It’s not so bad when you first get in but when you come up on the other side, your entire body locks up and you have a moment where you can’t think straight. All you want to do is get out of there but your body doesn’t want to function. Those first few seconds after coming up were unreal.
- Electric Eel: This is where I remembered that I paid to do this. I paid to crawl in the mud and get shocked. Crazy I know. I kept as low as possible, using only my elbows and toes to propel me forward, and looked for the path of least resistance (spoiler alert: There wasn’t one). I got shocked on my thighs a couple times and it definitely stung but I didn’t stop moving.
- Kiss of Mud: I really liked this obstacle. Crawl through mud under barbed wire. Done and done.
- Cage Crawl: I think this is the one I was most worried about going into it. I’m not claustrophobic so much but the idea of floating on my back in water below a caged fence with only a few inches of breathing air was a little scary. The water wasn’t too bad but there were a few parts with very little space between you and the cage. And there were parts where they had something covering the cage so you couldn’t see out. I flew through this one.
- Ha Ha Ditch: Because the course isn’t tough and muddy enough, they throw in a couple random ditches for fun.
- Just the Tip: I knew I wouldn’t make it far on this one and I didn’t. You have about two inches to hold on to as you cross a wall. I dropped pretty quickly into the water and it took a good mile before I felt warm again.
- Jumpin’ Bale: For some reason this one psyched me out and I got scared. They had huge rolls of hay evenly spread out and you had to jump from one to the next. Some people were running across like it was nothing whereas I stood on the first roll freaking out about jumping. Once I got over it and took the leap, I pancaked on top of the second bale, stood up and repeated the process until I got to the end. Sometimes it’s all about taking that first leap and not looking back.
- Cliffhanger: By far the hardest part of the entire thing for me. Most of the course was hilly and muddy – to the point where I’m not sure they had to do much extra to this part of the regular trail to turn it into the obstacle. This was the hilliest and muddiest part of all. I remember seeing a sign at the bottom that said “Leave your dignity here.” And there was nothing dignified about having to get on all fours and climb up holding on with every ounce of strength you have because you’ll do anything not to slide down and start over again. There were people who were able to stay upright but I fell down so much it seemed easier to just stay down. Getting to the top was definitely a triumphant moment.
- Warrior Carry: This one represented the spirit of the event: We had to take turns literally carrying our teammates on our back.
- Log Jammin: Thanks to my long legs, this one wasn’t too bad. Just a little over/under tall and short stacks of logs.
- Hold Your Wood: The guys in our group carried the weight on this one, literally. Because of the height difference, Rachel and I couldn’t contribute much so we just walked with them through the obstacle.
- Dirty Ballerina: Like Jumpin’ Bale, this one got to me. The gaps of water seemed really big and I had read all this stuff about people hurting themselves on this obstacle. I managed to jump across the first gap and land on the next muddy platform okay. After that, I did a little diagonal leap and landed on the side next to each gap. It was a bit of a cop out but I really didn’t want risk getting hurt with my half marathon coming up in two weeks.
- Mystery Obstacle: This was one of my favorites. You had to crawl through a tunnel and stand up between two walls that were really tall and a few feet apart. They had some footholds on one side and you basically had to press your back against the other side and shimmy your way up. At the top, you had to hoist yourself up onto these bars then climb over the other side and go down a cargo net. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish this one but I got through and it was awesome.
- Boa Constrictor: Another one where I was worried about the water level going into it. Luckily there wasn’t too much water in the tunnels.
- Tire Climb: They had huge tires built up into an obstacle course of sorts that you had to climb over and through. It was a fun break from the trail.
- Berlin Walls: These were much higher than the Glory Blades walls. It took both guys on my team giving me one boost and then another to get me to the top. From there, I muscled my way up and over, attempted to lower myself gracefully and then drop to the ground. The first one was good but my drop on the second one was bad and I ended up scraping my hands the whole way down the wall.
- Mud Mile: Another really tough one. There were mounds of mud every six feet or so with knee-deep water between them. I got through the first few mounds okay but it was really hard to find footholds. Conquering the mound was half the battle. Getting down without ending up submerged in the pool of water was the other challenge. I think I made it over four or five mounds before I got to one that I just couldn’t get up. I tried several routes and ended up bailing to the side. Looking back, I should have asked my teammates for more help before giving up.
- Devil’s Beard: We had to climb over some big piles of hay bales while under a net. It required some teamwork from everyone doing the obstacle as groups had to take turns holding up the net so others could complete the obstacle.
- Bushwacked: More hilly, thick terrain that we had to trod through. Yay!
- Funky Monkey: My upper body strength is not great. After 21 muddy obstacles and various levels of near-hypothermia, any grip I had was nonexistent. I knew I wouldn’t make it far through this one and I didn’t. I hung onto the second bar for awhile before dropping into the (super cold) water and swimming across.
- Walk the Plank: I’m not really afraid of heights or water so this one wasn’t bad, just cold.
- Everest: One of their more well known obstacles. You run up a half pipe, grab on at the top and hoist yourself up. Piece of cake, right? I saw a few people make it up on their own but most people were getting as high as they could then reaching out and grabbing on to people who were up top hanging over the edge. A lot of people slid back down or didn’t even make it halfway up. I ran full speed ahead, managed to jump high enough to touch the hand of my teammate who was up top and then slid back down. I could have tried again but I had some pain in my inner thigh and didn’t want to risk hurting it more.
- Electroshock Therapy: After several hours of trudging through the mud and tackling ridiculous obstacles, all that stands between you and the finish line is a bunch of dangling wires charged with up to 10,000 volts of electric shock. My plan was to cover my face and sprint through. I made it over the first hay bale but then I got hit in the back and my body just crumpled. In keeping with the dignity theme, I crawled the rest of the way.
My team locked arms as we crossed the finish line. I was covered in mud, completely freezing and already sore but it was an amazing experience. I didn’t make it through every obstacle but I at least attempted everything. And it really was about the journey – an awesome day working together with my team and fellow Mudders to make it through and challenge ourselves to do things we didn’t think we could do.
Have you completed a Tough Mudder? What was your favorite part? Toughest obstacle? Share in the comments!