The Marathon of half Marathons - Pt. 2: Tough Mudder, Michigan
Have you checked out Part 1 yet?! It's all about my beginnings as a runner, starting with my first half one month before the Tough Mudder!
I don't know how or why, but some reason my friends saw that I was training for halfs and decided that I should do a Tough Mudder with them.
Ahem - say what!?!
Doing a Tough Mudder or any other obstacle race was sooooooo far off my radar when I started this whole running training process. I didn't even think I wanted to do one, let alone do one sandwiched between two half marathons! But - my friends were very persuasive, and I think I was in a little bit of "yes! I'll do it!" kind of mood...and before I knew it I was registered for a Tough Mudder on Whiskey Business (is that not the coolest team name??).
I really wasn't too intimidated by doing this at first! I mean, I didn't plan on doing any extra training, at least. I was already doing Body Beast and training for my next half marathon, and knew that this was going to be a good challenge (and maybe even a more difficult challenge) 3 weeks before the half marathon in San Fran. So, I found myself more excited than nervous!
And then they sent out the obstacles...
I mean, there were some obstacles that looked nerve-racking, but others that looked down right scary. Obstacles like:
King of the Swingers (left)...considering I'm not someone who is overtly comfortable with heights, the idea of jumping from a pretty high platform onto a swinging bar? Yikes! I caught myself going..."Ummmm I have no hops! How am I going to make it to the bar to grab, let alone hit the bell?!"
Cry Baby. (center) ..I mean...just listen to that video! I mean their goal was to simulate tear gassing someone. Does that sound FUN!?!?!
Arctic Enema. (right) ..Ummmmmm diving into ice water?! Yeaaaaaah. Who willing does that? Oh apparently me, because I'm doing a Tough Mudder. Lol
There were so many things going into the race that I was nervous about! One of which was the fact that I was suffering from an injury. About 1-2 weeks before the race, I had REALLY aggravated my hip doing one of my long training runs. It was a 9-miler and about 7 miles in, I really started to feel some tightness in my hip. It wasn't anything that would set off any alarms, and I really just registered it as those kind of uncomfortable aches that you get when you do a distance run! No big deal! Well, it turned into a very big deal and would be an injury that I'm still harboring 2+ months later. So, I was concerned about my ability to run...but I figured it would be no big deal if we had to walk a bit between obstacles!
Despite that though, the biggest thing that made me nervous was probably my knee. I had this vision in my head that I would be running through holey, muddy fields, and I was admittedly terrified of hurting my bad, two-knee-surgeries-later knee. But I wanted to do it. I wanted to challenge myself to do all of these things that I was afraid to do. In fact, I went into the race knowing that I would not let myself skip an obstacle because I was afraid. I wanted to do every single obstacle, unless I couldn't.
The first obstacle in our path was the Kiss of Mud - basically an army crawl under barbed wire and through muddy water, and a REAL quick intro into this idea that you're going to be sopping wet and REAL dirty by the end of the day!
And then we hit Mud Mile! No official pictures from this one, but fortunately one of my teammates had a friend who was spectating the event and she got some great pictures from the mud mile! This obstacle...oh my god, I really don't even know what to say about this obstacle except that 90% of the bruises, scrapes, and scars (which I still have I might add almost 2 months later!) are from this event! It was a doozy and probably took us the longest of any of the obstacles. This is one of those moments when you really feel the true spirit of the Tough Mudder - strangers helping strangers do crazy, amazing feats of strength and toughness. I had never been so thankful for big burly dudes who were willing to help push and pull me over these HUGE mud mounds!
I had scraped knees, elbows, shins, bumps and bruises everywhere, and mud in all sorts of unmentionable places, and I had never felt so exhilarated!
Next up was Beached Whale! Not anything crazy difficult...we just had to get up and over this big inflatable blob. Probably my favorite part of this one was when one of the photographers took this picture of my teammate by literally leaping up with his camera arm extended! Her photo turned out awesome and was featured on the Tough Mudder website
Then was a number of very straightforward obstacles, like Shawshanked, which though relatively straightforward and not overtly daunting was actually surprisingly punishing! My back felt raw after pulling myself up backward through the tube before finally falling into the water!
Somewhere between this obstacle and the next one, Devil's Beard, my fear of injuring my knee came to fruition. But, oddly enough, or more so frustratingly enough, it wasn't an obstacle that induced it. I was screwing around as we were running along between the two obstacles and BOOM! I felt a tweak in my knee. It was a millisecond of instability. No popping or anything really terrifying that I can remember, but I definitely did something to it. It hurt and it felt unstable, but more than anything it upset me and freaked me out. We weren't very far into the race and I had already hurt myself. But more than being concerned about being able to finish, I was concerned about if I'd injured it badly enough to prevent me from running in San Francisco.
My team watched me go from happy and goofing around to very upset in a matter of seconds. I was so angry at myself that I had tweaked my knee screwing around. I knew better than that. And this frustration took me a little while to get over. Once I got my composure again, I tried jogging on it. So far so good. No serious instability. No pain. I didn't push myself too hard for the rest of the day, but found that it didn't really hinder me in terms of completing any obstacles or running. It was more of a mental thing with me for the rest of the day.
After we tackled Devil's Beard (right), we went onto one of the one's I've been dreading! King of the Swingers...
I have to say, walking up to this one I was intimidated! We were tired, it was really high, and so we took our time getting up to the obstacle. There were absolutely NO lines at this one, and we caught the volunteers kind of taunting us to pick up the pace. Let's just say it was not appreciated. Haha. When I got to the top, I tried my hardest not to look down. I didn't know if I would do it if I did. And then the volunteer said, "No girls have hit the bell yet today! Are you going to be the first one?" I laughed and said, "Ummm my goal is to just do this and hopefully touch the swing..."
Then he started counting down for me to jump off. I was irritated at first, thinking, "Ummm I'm not going to jump on your clock, I'm going to jump off on mine." But by the time he finished his countdown, I caught myself thinking, "Hell, I might as well not put this off any longer!" So I jumped!
I was freaking out the whole time. When I was on the platform, when I was in the air...
And then my hands connected with the swing...and I grabbed on! Yup - after all my freaking out, I actually was able to grab the swing! I released, and I don't think I even bothered trying to hit the bell, and just focused on the water below me. Before I knew it I was under, kicking in my tennis shoes trying to get back up to the surface. Btw, swimming in tennis shoes is HARD...
This was one of the obstacles I was dreading, and I actually found it pretty exhilarating! So it should all be downhill from there right?
Ha! I am so naive...
Cry Baby was next...and I was starting to feel like they packed the intimidating obstacles into the end of our race. A number of people on my team had medical reasons for not doing this obstacle, so me and one my teammates went in. First we ducked into the water underneath a wood barrier, and as soon as we came up on the other side and I opened my eyes and took a breath, all I was thinking was, well, a number of profanities. Breathing hurt, opening my eyes stung, and I heard her say something akin to, "Fuck this!" and then duck back out. I wanted to follow so badly. But I remembered that I had committed to doing every obstacle that I was physically capable of doing. So I took one painful breath, closed my eyes tight and just went for it.
It wasn't any sort of dangerous gas that they filled the obstacle with. It tasted and smelled like peppermint. But it wasn't pleasant, that is for sure. And when I hit the plywood gate on the other side, I was SO relieved. After some pats on the back and some peppermint gas-induced coughing, we charged forward...
Our next few obstacles, though physically demanding weren't anything crazy. We blazed through:
- The Liberator, which involved scaling a wall with pegs
- Balls Out - rock climbing-style traverse of inclined walls with ropes (much harder than it looks and a massive hip workout!)
- Skidmarked - scaling a 10 foot wall that is tilted toward you - definitely a teamwork obstacle. One of my teammates, though, (who I have affectionately started calling Skyscraper) scaled the wall with ease before coming back around and helping the rest of us!
- Warrior Carry - one of the only moments in the race when you partner up and take turns carrying each other. Some people did full on military carries, while most of us took the easy route and just gave piggy back rides! (right)
- Berlin Wall - basically another gigantic wall that you'll likely need a friendly boost to get over
I had to make a conscious effort on many of these climbing and descending obstacles to land on my good leg as to not further aggravate my knee.
Then we got to perhaps 3 of the most intense obstacles of the day...
First was Funky Monkey...I have no pictures of me on this obstacle, because, well, I haven't been on monkey bars since Elementary school and my grip strength is basically non-existent. I fell off into the water after about 1-2 monkey bars. But my teammates kicked some bootay! This obstacle involved a lot of grip and upper body strength! First it was monkey bars, then a swing, and then a pipe to move down to the end of the obstacle! We almost had one of us (our friend Skyscraper!) make it to the end of this obstacle, but this was a doozy of an obstacle, and I'm so freaking proud of my team for their ass-kicking on this one!
Then came Arctic Enema...I really don't think there's anyone that enjoys this one! You know I actually have a really close friend, Cullen, who takes cold showers purely for the mental challenge they present. I guess going into this I was thinking of him and if he can do it on many mornings, I definitely can do it this once! This one is simple...you take the plunge down a slide into ice cold water, leap a wall into more ice cold water and then you're done! This is a mental challenge...pure and simple!
Me and Skyscraper undertook this challenge together (right). I don't know if I thought covering my eyes would help ease the cold, but it really didn't...haha. It was cold as all hell anyway!
Then came Everest...actually it's Everest 2.0 this year!
I wasn't intimidated by this coming into the race, but when you're staring up at this gigantic-ASS, probably 20 ft wall...and you're 5'4" like me...it's KIND OF INTIMIDATING! And when I got to the front of the line to race up it, I was very nervous. And it surprised me. Because there's nothing intense or fear-inducing (in my opinion) about the obstacle. But I was still really nervous! I'd done every obstacle up until this point, but I found myself so intimidated by this one! Finally, with a little push from my teammate (and the TM volunteer)...I went for it! I ran my heart out until I couldn't go anymore and then just found the hands of the volunteers and fellow Mudders waiting at the top to hoist me up! I did it. Once again, I found myself so intimidated by something that I thought I couldn't do, but as soon as I gave myself the chance to do it...I surprised myself.
After Everest, there was one more obstacle - Electroshock Therapy. This is the infamous Tough Mudder obstacle that everyone freaks out about. Why? Well - because you get shocked. It's at the tail end of every race, and you run through a field of wires dangling down in front of you that shock you!
I was intimidated by this one, but almost more curious than intimidated, going in. We approached the start of it as a team, and went in together. I feel like I must have blacked out or something during it because apparently I was started running and yelling "Go! Go! Go!" the whole time through, and I have no recollection of this! All I know is that as soon as I got in there, I was determined to just haul ass until I was out! I didn't concern myself with getting shocked or falling...I just ran! And you can tell by the look on my face that I was very determined (below!).
I don't remember being affected by the shocks while I was in the obstacle. I felt them...but I didn't react to them. I got to the finish of the obstacle and then I started to feel the effects. I felt a little woozy, weak in the knees, but I didn't find that I received any shock that brought me to my knees. Nothing quite affected me like that. and I'm not sure if I just got lucky, or if maybe this obstacle is a little bit more mental than it is physically painful. Maybe the fear of getting shocked for many is what intensifies it and not the shock itself. Idk - that's just me overanalyzing, like I always do!
Getting to that finish line was probably one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done in my life. There was so much about doing a Tough Mudder that I didn't think I could do! But I pleasantly surprised myself! I did every single obstacle in that race...and there's a part of me that still can't believe that.
I mean - I don't think there's anything that makes you feel as badass as doing something like this! I mean, you do every single thing seemingly that makes people uncomfortable. Heights, getting down and dirty, wallowing in mud, getting shocked, getting put into a situation where you feel like you can't breath, putting your success into other people's hands, jumping into ice cold water. So many of these things we won't willingly do day to day, if ever! But this obstacle course challenges you in both physical and mental ways and to complete that challenge...I really don't feel like there's anything like it.
So - that was my Tough Mudder experience!
Completing every obstacle, tweaking my knee and freaking out about it, feeling like the most epic badass I've ever felt like, and having one of the most memorable days of my life!
I really think that every one should do an obstacle race at some point in their life! You know, whether you have your reservations about obstacle course races or not...this is something that is pretty intense and amazing and challenges you in ways that you probably won't ever challenge yourself! I mean, I'm an athlete, but I played soccer. Maybe for rock climbers or military personnel or people who are just abnormal adrenaline junkies this is normal everyday shit, but for someone like me...this is game-changing. And doing this Tough Mudder made me realize...that I am a badass! And I need to start owning that badassery ! ;-)
How'd you like hearing about the Tough Mudder?! Have you done one?! Tell me below!