UPDATE: We've finally added the video portion of this race...
This past weekend I tackled the Tough Mudder: Mid-Atlantic in Frederick, Maryland. Days later, I am sore in places I never knew I could be sore. (My rib cage? The palms of my hands?)
Last summer, I took on the Spartan Sprint, a 5k run with 18 obstacles. It kicked my butt. But since then I changed my training – it takes a lot more than just running to master one of these courses, I've learned – and I had a better idea of what to expect. With that in mind, I signed up for the Tough Mudder, the 10+ mile gold-standard of mud runs.
On the bright side, I learned that supposedly 24,000 people would be embarking on the challenge with me, so I wouldn’t be suffering alone. Looking around the staging area, I was certainly not the caliber of athlete of some of the participants; on the other hand, I was definitely in better shape than quite a few as well.
I can do this, right?
I have to admit I was nervous. I knew I could handle the running, but a three-hour race designed to punish you both physically and mentally is still daunting.
The race took place on a farm outside Frederick and covered 11 miles. Waves of competitors were sent off in 20-minute intervals from 8 a.m. to just after 2 p.m. Before starting my heat with roughly 100 compatriots, a hype-man delivers an impassioned speech– “We're out here for the charity” (Wounded Warrior Project); “We're doing this for the camaraderie;” “This isn’t an individual race but a team challenge;” “Leave no man behind.”
And with that, it was game-on.
Start with a half-mile run. First obstacle: the Arctic Enema. This was one of the few obstacles that really concerned me. Take an industrial dumpster – about 15 feet in length, fill it with cold water, then dump in untold amounts of ice. Ever stick your hand into a cooler to fish out a beverage? Now think about jumping into it, swimming under a barrier to force you to be fully submerged (yes, including your head), then fighting to the other side. The water supposedly is 34 degrees, and you feel every ounce of that pain. Despite being in the water probably no more than 20 seconds, it seems like an eternity. Your entire body locks up on you, your brain can't function and the only thought running through your head is GET ME OUT OF HERE. Climb out the other side, shake it out and get moving to the next obstacle.
The "Dirty Ballerina" was more of a physical challenge – the race designers cut 4-foot deep trenches between "platforms" of mud, each platform about five feet apart. Hop over the trench and try to keep your footing on the slick-as-ice landing. Repeat for five trenches. Past experience was beneficial in handling this obstacle. In my first mud run I had learned it was wise to wear both the oldest shoes you own and to duct tape them to your feet. Sounds ridiculous, but you WILL lose your shoes in ankle-deep mud. One mile down, 10 to go.