To condition ourselves for running AND strength efforts, we gradually increased the running distances between these stations as well as the total number of obstacle stations we included in each session. We trained together once a week and started with six obstacle stations with a quarter mile run between each station. Our last training session, the week before our challenge included fourteen obstacle stations with half mile runs as well as a couple two mile runs between each station for a total of ten miles. I have to say that I felt that we were very well prepared for the physcial challenges of the Tough Mudder. We had the strength and the endurance to complete all the obstacles and run the course. This allowed us the luxury of being able to focus on the mental challenges of getting through this course. Strategy, motivation, teamwork, suck-it-up-and-just-do-it-even-though-its-scary, and a disproportional amount of hubris regarding one's relative indestructibility are all requirements to complete the Tough Mudder.
|Maxine and Suzanne hamming it up.|
|The nerd tribe.|
It was a slightly chilly day of 60 degrees with very little sun, but that didn't stop a lot of the participants from wearing little more than tiny little shorts and even a few thongs. There was a group of young men dressed as teenage mutant ninja turtles with green bikini bottoms and turtle shells on their backs. There was group of men and women dressed as ballerinas with matching wigs as well as a whole tribe of "nerds" complete with bow ties, glasses, and suspenders.
|Me, Suzanne, random guy, and Mereth coming out of the ice.|
|Only a couple of miles into the race at this point, about to|
hit the first set of walls.
|Maxine doesn't need any help.|
|We used a little teamwork to get Mereth|
and her bad ankle up the wall.
My friend Suzanne, who also happens to be the mom of my favorite weightlifting/powerlifting/pole vaulting sixteen year old girl, was also in rare form. A seasoned runner with lots of miles and a marathon under her belt, she also works out with a trainer friend of mine five days a week training with barbells, bodyweight, and lots of enthusiasm.
|I needed a little push.|
|I don't know why I'm smiling, this was not terribly fun.|
|Just one of our shoe washing stops.|
|Great technique by the ballerino here.|
Following the dirty ballerina, we came to my least favorite obstacle, the Electric Eel. We arrived to this obstacle to see a similar setup as the second obstacle: barbed wire over mud. However, this obstacle was different in a rather sinister way. There was not only water on the ground, there was a fire truck spraying water all over the area where people were crawling, soaking their bodies and faces. Dangling above them were hundreds of little yellow strings. Only these weren't strings, they were live electrical wires.
Here's what I know about belly crawling:
1. Its hard.
2. I do it really slow.
3. I don't like it.
And now, I have to crawl on my belly, under electrified wires, while being sprayed by a fire truck, through water up to my nose. If I lift my head too high, I get shocked on my head. Electrical shocks to the head are not pleasant. I know this because I grew up with electric fences and when we're kids, we're all pretty dumb and kind of sadistic.
|I think he got shocked.|
I got as flat as possible, turned my head slightly to the left to avoid the water spray, flattened my arms out in front of me, and began propelling myself forward with just the top half of my feet and my fingers. When I saw a set of wires, I slithered between them. Meanwhile the guy beside me was shrieking every time he shocked his ear, forehead, and back. I stayed low and slithered my way out without receiving a single shock so I felt kind of like a dirty cheater, but I had a severe neck cramp, the arches of my feet were seizing up, and I could barely breathe from hyperventilating.
But, then I was out and up and running again. I had to keep up with Maxine after all. And into some more mud we went. We waded down a long trench filled with a dark gray mud. We'd so far seen yellow and black mud, this was our first experience with gray. If you are impressed at all by geological variation, the clay on this course was all different shades of yellow, red, orange, gray, and even purple. Since we were trying not to dislocate any joints, we had time to admire things like this.
|I like his shirt. I understand completely.|
After this obstacle we washed our shoes out yet again and then ran a bit more before getting to a sign that told us it was now time to carry one of our teammates an undetermined distance. My husband, being a gentleman, had me jump on his back and carried me the next 50 yards. I should have seen this coming, but I'm dense sometimes and didn't anticipate the sign that instructed us to switch partners. And we were at the bottom of a kind of steep hill. Well, it wasn't that steep, but I had my husband on my back. In his defense, he was against the idea altogether, but again, I'm stubborn and didn't want to look like a sissy so I carried him up the hill on my back.
And then, without warning, a miracle happened. We rounded a corner and there was a row of porta-potties. And beyond that, a water station with bananas and protein bars. It was like an oasis in a desert of mud and suffering. We stopped briefly for all calls of nature and then continued on to the second round of Berlin Walls.
These walls were high, I think it said they were nine feet, but I think they were ten. We all needed help getting over these, but there were plenty of people to help both on and off our team. The strategy that worked best here was for two of us to put our backs to the wall and get down in a half squat. The person going over the wall would then step onto our hands which were on one knee and then up to our shoulders until they could grab the top of the wall. We then continued to push them up until they were able to get over it. The drop off the other side was a concern as well. Dropping three feet to the ground may not be that bad, but with fatigued ankles, it is easy to twist or sprain something. Needless to say, we got through this just fine.
I'm going to leave this for now. We had actually gone through about 14 obstacles by this point but a lot were crawling through mud, tunnels, muddy tunnels, and more mud so they all kind of blurred together. The next installment will be all about the last four miles, water, swimming, more mud, hypothermia, muscle cramps, electrocution, and beer. And maybe cheeseburgers. Stay tuned.