So what is Tough Mudder?
A 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your stamina, grit, strength, teamwork and plenty of other things. For you Canadians out there, 12 miles is almost 20 km (almost a half marathon). You go through fire, mud, ice, water, electricity and more to get to the finish line. I signed up for this event after being introduced to it via a coworker in the month of April. I thought it would be a good challenge since I’ve never done a running type of event. I hate running and the idea of doing a marathon bores the crap out of me (even though doing a half marathon is on my bucket list). This seemed like the type of thing that would keep me on my toes. I definitely do not consider myself tough. I’m 5 ‘ 10 but I’m slim built. I consider myself above average in fitness as I can do the Grouse Grind in 50 mins, run 5km in less than 30 mins, bang out a “decent” amount of pushups yada yada…
I started training for TM near the end of April up to the last few days before the event. I was already doing P90X and mixing in some Insanity into my routines but I also started working in some running (my greatest weakness). I had already picked up P90X earlier in the year and overall I’m probably in one of the best shapes of my life. I felt pretty ready.
The event was last weekend and consisted of over 14,000+ participants on Saturday (my race day) and 1500+ on Sunday. It was held up in Whistler and the anticipated weather forecast was not great. Rain was on the horizon and apparently thunder showers were expected as we moved into late afternoon. The night leading up to TM was filled with an anxious buzz. I didn’t sleep early because I knew if I did, I would be lying in bed from 9pm-1am trying to fall asleep. So I slept at about 12am (a little earlier than normal) for a couple Z’s before I had to get up at 4:30am. When we got up to Whistler, we were shuttled from the parking lots in school buses (TM rented 90+ buses) to transport people over to the starting location.
Our team was amped up and ready to go. Our original team name was “We eat mud for breakfast”, but we decided to change it during our one and only team “meeting” (drinking beer and eating). We originally wanted “This seemed like a good idea at the time”, but someone took that name, word for word. Ridiculous! After some bantering, we had changed it to simply “WHY?!”. We wrote “WHY?!” on all our foreheads and trust me, there were many times when people were asking WHY were they doing this?
Looking around the thousands of people at the registration and start area, it was very clear that the average build of a Tough Mudder was a fairly buff Caucasian male. There were a fair amount of women doing TM, and I think I saw more asian women than asian men. Either way I was proud to represent the minority!
I was surprised to see a friend before the start of our heat (9:45am). We would get a chance to bump into each other a few times throughout the course. I went to get a drink of water before the start of our heat and when I returned, my team had abandoned me. Yes abandoned. They had already scaled the first wall (they put an obstacle between you and the start area). I had to rush over the wall so I didn’t miss any of the intros. The announcer guy pumped up the crowd and we repeated the TM pledge before we started.
BAM! And we’re off. The first couple miles of the course consisted of lots of running. Lots of uphill running on various types of terrain (light mud, gravel, rocks etc.). The first couple obstacles were okay. We crawled under barbed wire, climbed some tall walls, climbed over stuff (e.g. snow, logs), climbed into pipes, trekked right into the forest and so forth. All pretty standard. For the third obstacle, they filled these containers with dyed water (choice of red or green) and huge ice chunks. You jump in and it’s pretty cold but too bad. Then you have to go under the wooden plank and you realize how COLD it is. That definitely woke me up.
So after a shit load of running on terrain, we were approaching the 6 mile mark. We were at approaching obstacle 11 and we were now running in much higher altitude than the start of the race. There was snow everywhere and we were moving into the part of the event that destroyed me. One of our team mates was feeling weak (from lack of food, as she is allergic to the bananas at the water stations) and she didn’t know if she could make it. We reached obstacle 11 known as “Snow Ramp” and we found out what this. This was a snow ramp.. into a frozen lake. The distance you had to get across was not very far (you can see in the picture) but the thought of it was still ridiculous.
As our team slid down the snow ramp, we were all asking WHY?! There was no time for second guessing though. Our fearless leader (the organizer) threw his t-shirt across the pit of water before jumping in. This way, he kept his t-shirt dry and got the thrills of maximum ice water contact! I jumped in and was met with the feeling of a thousand little needles prickling my body. It was the coldest sensation I have ever felt and it literally takes your breath away. It made the ice bath earlier feel warm. When I pulled myself out, my whole body was in a cold shock. It was SO FRICKEN COLD. I had to take my gloves off because the shards of ice were cold burning my hands. We were about to take off running again when the (sick) team-mate from earlier let us know she was going to pull out. She had skipped the snow ramp because she knew she wouldn’t make it after that. She would get picked up by First Aid to get shuttled back to the starting area.
I was so cold that I needed to start running again to get warm. Here is where the problem started. We were about to run on hard packed snow for the next few kms. Being the smart guy that I am, I decided to wear old runners because I figured that if my shoes were destroyed (common), it wouldn’t matter. The big problem was that I had no grip on my old runners. While others were hiking along fine, I was struggling to just stay on the pathway. I spent at least 2-3 times more effort than anybody else and exhausted way more energy. I almost slipped and hurt myself dozens of times and it was a miracle that I didn’t. As I reached the end, I was so happy to see gravel. I was 3 steps away from “flat ground”.
But we have to make it dramatic. With no grip on my shoes, I slipped on the snow and my calf overextended in one direction as I tried to keep myself from falling. The pain of pulling/tearing my calf caused me to fall to my knees. I was breathing heavily as I tried not to make a sound of agony. For the next few minutes I couldn’t get up because of the pain.
To be continued….