If you’ve ever had friends who run – but you don’t – then you know that feeling of “Maybe I should do this but I don’t know about it and I don’t typically do that.” That was how I felt about running too and now I consider myself a runner. But about three years ago when Courtney and Robert signed up for a Tough Mudder and tried desperately to convince us to join their team, I was way too skeptical. I always had a reason not to do it: time, money, pregnant, etc. This year, I decided to commit.
Though I have been running semi-consistently for months, I wanted to train additionally for this competition. For a while I was using our rock climbing hang board to do dead hangs and work on my pull-ups for upper body strength. I also went to the playground and practiced going back and forth on the monkey bars. I did push-ups and planks in my office when I could. I think if I had done this a little more consistently, I would have been able to finish a few more of the obstacles but I did fine on most of them.
If you’re going to commit, I would say that you should definitely be able to run a solid two miles. That is, if you want to feel strong going into your first obstacle. From what I know of my race and others, your first test is to run between one and two miles. Sure, you could walk, but I feel like you’re taking away from the point of it.
Our “race” was held in Palm Bay, just slightly south of Melbourne, Florida. I put race in quotation marks because it is not timed. If you are a runner and used to this sort of competition, realize that this is in a league of its own. The Mudder is focused primarily on team cohesion and finishing. The thing I don’t like about it is that you can opt to skip every obstacle. You could walk the entire thing and walk around each challenge and still get the finisher headband at the end. To me, this lessens the integrity of my award. So in my opinion – in the words of Jameis Winston – “If we gon’ do it then, we gon’ do it big then.” Attempt every obstacle. Run as much as you can.
I highly recommend a certain type of gear for this.
One: wear running/racing pants. At least have something that covers your knees. You will do a lot of crawling – army and on hands and knees. My husband’s knees look red and shredded today from The Devil’s Beard and The Birth Canal.
Two: shoes that don’t hold water. You will trudge through nasty looking pits and entire mud puddles. You will fall into vats of disgusting sludge. You will want light-weight shoes. We often had to empty our shoes and it got to the point where running was so hard because of the weight.
Three: For women, get that hair pulled back tight. You will be disgusting, you will have to force yourself under barbed wire and netting. Don’t take the risk of getting hair all over.
Not every race is the same but the Tough Mudder crew will send you an email with your race info and planned obstacles about a week out from your event. We had the following: Kiss of Mud, Birth Canal, Pitfall, Skidmarked, Balls Out, Arctic Enema 2.0, Devil’s Beard, Mud Mile, Berlin Walls 2.0, Warrior Carry, Cry Baby, Shawshanked, Beached Whale, Ladder to Hell, Funky Monkey 2.0, King of Swingers, The Liberator, Everest, and Electroshock Therapy.
Now, Everest was not on our map so that was the x factor. It was apparently 20% higher than before.
Some advice for specific obstacles:
Balls Out, Berlin Walls, Skidmarked, Ladder, Funky Monkey, The Liberator: Work out your upper body. If you have a strong team member or members, then the wall up and overs are ok. Someone can push you from the bottom and pull you from the top. But having good arm strength helps. I dominated Balls Out and that gave me a huge confidence booster.
I was very worried about Arctic Enema but it was actually a welcomed feeling. Since you’re so muddy and gross, the water was nice. Granted, it wasn’t too dirty yet and the weather was warm. It is a bit of a shock to your system but take the plunge!
I will admit that I skipped Ladder to Hell because it was higher than I thought and very slippery. I was watching a girl my height crest it and she was struggling to get her leg to the next board. I said, “Do I want to risk falling?” The answer was: not really.
I also skipped the Liberator because I was really worn down by that point and my upper body was simply not making that climb. I was feeling really dejected at that point too but then my success on the Electroshock made me feel a lot better.
Electroshock Therapy is apparently as rugged as you’d think. We stood there watching people run through and fall hard as soon as they got a shock. I was terrified. My teammates went through and I watched Ash take a wire to the foot and fall over like he had been literally shot. Both he and Courtney took the low road: crawling in mud over hay bales as the wires hung above. Both flipped their feet too high and caught a wire. Before I knew it, every one of them was across and I was left. I turned to the two Army guys manning the obstacle and claimed, “My team left me!” One of them said, “No, you left them.” And with that, I plunged down into the mud and crawled myself to safety, never catching a wire. I am glad too; Ash said it is really as bad as you’d think.
(I look thoroughly disgusted in this pic but I am so worried about getting shocked that I was in a whole other state of mind: get to the end NOW.)
In short, it was a pretty fun thing to do. “Life-affirming” would be the best descriptor. It made me feel like I was actually being challenged and I felt pretty good about it. I was tired and sore and I still am. But I felt like I truly earned my beers and burger. I will say, having beer at the finish line (like a lot of other races do too) was very nice. And if you wanted more, they were not overpriced. (Five bucks) They didn’t set up the finish very well. At every race I have been to, you cross the finish line then walk at least 20-30 feet before hitting tables of water, food, gear, etc. They had theirs – no joke – about two feet after the finish so everyone bunched up and it got really annoying. That would be my only true complaint about set up.
Overall, do I recommend it to people? YES! It was a great experience. Will I do another one? Maybe in time. I think I have to forget how strenuous this one was before I go signing up for another. But it certainly was an experience!
(Our team: The Mud Puppies)