Thursday, May 29, 2014

Tough Mudder Ohio Recap

Photos by OHventures

They don't call it the Tough Mudder for nothing. It's tough - really, really, really tough. And it's muddy - really, really, really muddy! It's the toughest mudder on the planet. And I am not exaggerating. This was 10.25 miles of muddy mayhem, and I am still washing the dirt off of my eardrums.

The Tough Mudder takes place all over the world, from the United States to Germany, the United Kingdom to New Zealand. On May 17 & 18, 2014, Tough Mudder came to Ohio and took over the Mansfield Airport in Richland County. Mother Nature surely delivered, with epic rainstorms threatening the entire state all week long. The rain continued through Saturday, creating an exceptionally mucky experience for the mudders on that day.

Thankfully, the rain stopped in time for the Sunday event, which is when my team, the Mudder Funners, embarked on our adventure. I actually only knew 1 of my teammates prior to the day of the Tough Mudder. My college friend Laurel compiled her team of 7 of her friends from different stages of her life. We all became quick friends, which was necessary since we would be going through such a huge milestone together.

Team Mudder Funners: Jen, Ryan, Jason, Mike, Mikki, Laurel, Mike, & Me!

The start of our heat was at 9:20 AM, so we arrived at the parking lot at around 7:30 AM and took the shuttle to the site of the course. We got our bibs and I soon met up with my pal Johnny (pictured below), a seasoned mudder who would be completing his 15th Tough Mudder this morning!

Each Tough Mudder course is different, but they always start out with a mini team-building exercise which requires all participants to hoist themselves (or be hoisted by others) over a tall wooden wall. And that's BEFORE the official start line! From there, they recognize all of the attendees who are members of the Mudder Legion, who all have done 2 or more Tough Mudders and have different color headbands to indicate how many they've done (Johnny had a black headband to show off that he had done over 10).

It was then time to kick off the wildest event I have ever done before. The course was SO muddy that we all duct-taped our shoes to our feet so that they wouldn't get sucked into the sludge. Below is a synopsis of the obstacles we encountered in Mansfield!

1. Kiss of Mud: The "Kiss Of Mud" obstacle required runners to get on their stomachs and army crawl under REAL barbed wire placed very low to the ground! The funny thing about this obstacle is that it resembles the obstacle found at the very END of the Warrior Dash - so you know that they mean business. This set the tone for the Tough Mudder. They don't waste ANY time getting you down and dirty and make sure you feel uncomfortable right from the get-go. 

2. Glory Blades: The Glory Blades were a series of 2.5 meter high wooden walls that are slanted TOWARD you. You are required to climb over them, and more often than not, you will need fellow Tough Mudders to assist you over by giving you a boost (especially if you're short like me, or if you don't have great upper body strength). This started to build our team camaraderie, as we waited for everyone to get over and helped one another along the way!

3. Devil's Beard: A relatively easy obstacle comparatively, Devil's Beard was a large cargo net that was fastened to the ground that Tough Mudders had to crawl underneath on their hands and knees. The cargo net spans across a large area of terrain and is so low to the ground, gravity forces it back down on your back. Because it is so heavy, it is helpful for other Mudders to hold the net up for you to give it more slack and take the weight off of you as you make your way through.

4. Trench Warfare: This was freaky. If you hate small, dark, enclosed spaces, then you would HATE Trench Warfare. You choose a tunnel to tackle and soon, it takes you underground where it is practically pitch black. This would be fine if the tunnel was a straight shot to the other end, but surprisingly, there were some twists and turns in the path which caught me completely off guard!

5. Quagmire: This was your basic mud pit with large mud mounds at the start and end of the pit. It was a bit tough making it out of the slippery slope and got you SOAKING wet.

6. Bale Bonds: After running for quite a ways through an old cornfield, we came across Bale Bonds, which honestly didn't look like much of a challenge. It was essentially a series of hay bales you were required to run and jump over. After all of the running involved, I wasn't so upset with the ease of this obstacle.

7. Lumberjacked: When we approached this obstacle, I knew it would be a challenge. This was basically an enormous log hoisted a couple of meters in the air that you were required to jump over. Sounds easy enough, but it required the execution of a hefty high jump and a lot of upper body strength. The high jump is what got me, and it took me 2 attempts before I was successful! There was a lot of struggle going on with this one!

8. Mystery Hazard: This  mystery hazard, if I remember correctly, was called Pole Dancer, a brand new obstacle that required a great deal of upper body strength! The set-up were two metal poles traversing a muddy pond. You were required to use only your arms to cross the water. It was tricky.

9. Arctic Enema: Okay. This one was the worst of the worst. The epitome of hell on earth. A large truck bed held a tank full of 350,000 gallons of ice floating in frigid waters. We were required to use our mental grit and bravery to climb into one end of the tank and swim through to the other end. At the midpoint of the tank, there was a large wooden barrier that made it so that we had to submerge ourselves under the water to proceed. The trick to this was just to not think too much about it, and just do it! I pushed mounds of floating ice out of my way and climbed out of the tank, barely able to feel my toes and fingers. This was by far the HARDEST part of the Tough Mudder.

10. Mud Mile: After the insanity that was Arctic Enema, the key was to keep moving to keep warm. This is where my new buddy Ryan and I were forced to forge ahead and leave some of our other teammates behind. If we stayed put, we would freeze our buns off. So, we ran full force to the mud mile, which was a large mud pit with large rocks situated throughout. This required us to switch between wading in mud and hopping on top of and over the stone structures.

11. Haha Ditch: I am not sure why this was called the Haha Ditch, other than the fact that you hopped into the ditch full of muddy water only to find it slowly became deeper and deeper. It came to the point that it was nearly impossible to get out of the pit without assistance from a teammate or stranger.

12. Warrior Carrier: This hazard was a simple concept: for 100 yards, a fellow mud runner was required to carry you on his or her back. Then, you and your partner switched roles so that the carrier became the one who was carried for the next 100 yards. My teammate Ryan was much taller than me and a good 30 pounds heavier, so after he carried me for the first 100 yards, I was not sure I would be able to carry him. Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to carry him piggy back style for the next 100 yards. This made it one of my favorite obstacles!

13. Balls To The Wall: Climbing a vertical rope to scale an enormous wall (we are talking approximately 30 feet tall) is hard enough, but to do it with muddy hands and feet is even more of a challenge. Many people were gassed out at this point, and some rather brute guys in front of Ryan and I were unable to complete the mission at hand. But, Ryan and I were able to get ourselves up to the top and back down on the other side. It was pretty exhausting, but yet still another one of my favorites.

14. Mud Mile 2: This was a continuation of the previous Mud Mile (# 10) going in the opposite direction.

15. Walk The Plank: Aside from the hellish Arctic Enema, this was the scariest part of the course! We were required to walk up a staircase to a platform that was approximately 20 feet in the air. We then literally walked a plank (AKA a diving board) that looked over a 15-foot deep pool of murky water. All that we had to do was walk or jump off of the board, but this proved difficult for me at first because of the fact that I am scared of heights. After initial hesitation, I jumped off the platform, plugging my nose, and swimming to the cargo net on the other side once I emerged.

16. Funky Monkey: Think elementary school playground monkey bars - but add a pit of muddy water below. This was the only element of the course we were unable to complete because of how slippery the bars were. I was bummed I did not finish it, but, we had to move on!

17. Berlin Walls: Much like the Glory Blades (#2), these were a series of tall wooden walls, but instead of leaning toward you, they were straight up and down. This made scaling the walls impossible to do without any assistance from fellow mudders (at least for a shorty like me). My calf cramped up quite a bit during this obstacle!

18. Pitfall: Yet ANOTHER pit full of muddy water was Pitfall, which had an element of surprise! The ground  that was at the bottom of the water was uneven, and there were many changes in depth throughout. Therefore, you would never know when the ground below you would seemingly vanish. It was fun and embarrassing at the same time!

19. Prairie Dog: If you are claustrophobic in any way, shape or form, you would NOT enjoy Prairie Dog. Pipes barely large enough to fit a grown adult were filled halfway with muddy water. We had to crawl (or rather, squeeze) through the pipes to the other side where we had to fall into - you guessed it - another large pool of muddy water. It was dark, gross, and cramped! Not to mention, it stunk.

20. Everest: You will find the Everest obstacle at any Tough Mudder you go to. It is a staple of the Tough Mudder, and one of the zenith obstacles! It's basically a quarter pipe (like what you would see skateboarders or snowboarders doing tricks on) with slick mud and grease and a platform at the top. You have to run full speed ahead to get enough momentum to get you to the top platform. If you don't quite make it, people at the top can grab your hand and pull you up. It took me two attempts before successfully completing this mammoth obstacle!

21. Electroshock Therapy: Also at every Tough Mudder you will find one badass bat-shit crazy obstacle at the finale called "Electroshock Therapy." This is the only thing between you and the finish line. It's a series of hay bales with live wires hanging overhead, looking like tree vines. Each wire has 10,000 volts waiting to shock you! The best way to tackle this craziness is to barrel right through while covering your face with your arms. Otherwise, you run the risk of face planting into the ground due to the high voltage knocking you out! It was a ton of fun watching others do this once we were done! I managed to get through without face planting, but I did get shocked in my foot and leg. It was intense and unlike anything I have felt before!

And with that, we crossed the finish line in a time of approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes. The event was not officially timed, but that was our estimate based on our start time! Ryan and I were thrilled to be done but so proud of what we accomplished! We were given Met-Rx protein bars and Dos Equis beer as a reward, as well as the coveted orange headband and a finisher's Under Armor t-shirt.

We were of course chastised by the rest of our team who finished around 1 hour after us. After all, the whole point of the event is to complete as a team and experience camaraderie. However, we knew that we had to do what we could to survive, and our team was large enough that we could split into two. No one was really upset with us, and we were fortunate to all finish relatively unscathed (aside from the unavoidable scrapes and bruises on our arms and legs).

I am proud to be a part of the Mudder Funners with my old friend Laurel and new friends Ryan, Jen, Jason, Mike, Mike, and Mikki. We shared in an experience that we will never forget, and we tested our strength, stamina, and mental grit. Running in a marathon in a straight line doesn’t spike your adrenaline, but mud, freezing cold ice, electricity, and fire, sure as hell does. Why run miles on pavement, when you can do all of this crazy shit??

I will be doing this again and become a Legionnaire. If you want to join in and be a part of Mudder Nation, start prepping yourself now. It's so worth it!

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