Possibly the Toughest Event on the Planet
I don’t really know where to start with this recap because this is so much different than anything I have ever done. To be honest, looking back on the event, I forgot a lot of what we went through, so it is hard to give a mile by mile break down of what this thing was like. Even the official course website has some of the obstacles listed out of order. So I will do my best and describe what it was like. Just a fair warning, this recap is far longer than I had initially planned, so to save your dash, I am putting it all behind the jump.
I should warn you that I love photos. Most of what you see in here is from the Tough Mudder Facebook page. They have some great photos that really capture the event. Sadly, I think I only got about 5 or 6 of me.
Here we go…
Walking up to the event you can hear a wave about to start. According to the website, they released waves every 20 minutes of 600 people, charging through that famous orange smoke at the start line. An indistinct voice barked over the PA as we approached and I could see many people at the start line jumping and bouncing. Oddly enough, I was not nervous and felt rather calm.
Heading over to registration, we dropped off the infamous death waiver and picked up our race packet. The packet was merely a bib and safety pins. They wrote your race number on your forehead, arm, and leg with a permanent marker, which was a surreal moment for me. Was I really here doing this? What had I gotten myself into?
These were thoughts that swirled around my mind as we made our way through bag check and to see some of the vendors before our wave started. Since our wave did not start until 11:00 a.m., we had a chance to see portions of the course and people going through them. Part of me wanted to see the obstacles and another part of me did not. We did manage to squeeze in these group shots, though:
Just before 11 we made our way to the start line. Let me tell you this, no other moment at a race has started like Tough Mudder. None. Nothing compares. The guy on the mic made everyone take a knee and talked to us for about 5 or 10 minutes and really hammered home what we were about to do. After that, we rose, and with our right hands raised, we took the Tough Mudder pledge.
As a Tough Mudder I pledge that…
- I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
- Put teamwork and camraderie before my course time.
- I do not whine - Kids whine.
- I help my fellow mudders complete the course.
- I overcome all fears.
All of this was followed by the playing of the National Anthem, a very humbling moment. As the anthem concluded, and the PA rattled again, it was time to start the most grueling and challenging course I have ever encountered. Here is the course map:
Time to go!
The start is so easy to recall, because it was this strangely serene bright green grass field. It felt so tame and perfectly manicured. Our group was 4 guys. One of the guys told us up front he had not really prepared and that we should keep going as he was going to walk a lot of it. So that is what we did. Probably for about a mile or so we ran until we can to the first obstacle, called the Steeplechase. This was a series of small wall type obstacles meant to be jumped over. Of course they dug ditches right after them so if you weren’t paying attention you would jump over and fall right into a ditch. Then it was time to run some more.
I am guessing that around the mile and a half mark we came to another obstacle, the most memorable one for our group by far. Dubbed “Jocks on the Rocks” this obstacle was basically 2 large rectangular dumpster containers filled with water. The water in one was dyed green and the other pink. Both filled to capacity with ice. Half way through was a large piece of wood topped with barbed wire clearly meant to force everyone to be completely submerged in the cold. As we jumped in it was a total shock, especially after running a little over a mile in the 75 degree Florida heat. But going under that piece of wood and then coming back up was a feeling I have never felt. I couldn’t breathe. I had a hard time moving. My body locked up. Absolute and total shock. I wanted to get out and wanted to hop over the side. There were people in front of me pushing to get out. The lady in front of me had trouble getting out so I grabbed her foot and tried to throw her up and over. As we got out, I looked behind at my buddy Peto and thankfully he had the same expression as I did. A few seconds after that we found ourselves laughing at what we just went through.
Here are 2 proofs of me trying not to die in that thing:
Then it was more running. Until we got to a small pond and had to go under a series of barrels and then wade back out to the grass for more running.
Can you guess what was next? Yea, more running.
Kiss of Mud
This was not too bad. The barbed wire overhead forced you to crawl as you were sprayed with water. It was not a big obstacle to get through. My main issue was my shins, especially my right shin, which was in a lot of pain from being abused by that CrossFit box jump a few days earlier.
If I had to pick an obstacle that I had not really given much thought to, but frightened me when I saw it, this would be it. You see, the small thumbnails on the website course info do not do any of the obstacles justice. A large steel cable about 10 or 12 feet high held a large cargo net up that we had to scale. With a lose bottom, people had to grab on, pull it, and hold it down with their body weight. If they didn’t do that, not sure how you could get over. It felt so unsteady. I am not afraid of heights, but there was something different about this to me. Up and over I went and thankfully it didn’t take long to get through it.
This cracked me up. It also was another reminder of what we were doing. I had done Warrior Dash back in May. With a time of a little over 30 minutes I felt pretty boss about doing it. And here I was, just getting started. These kind of “encouraging” signs were all over the course, actually.
Imagine a pit of mud covered with a giant heavy net and you have to squeeze in between. That is what this was. At the start and end you are actually able to get up on your feet, but the netting is so tight and heavy that you have to crawl in the middle.
At this point, I was beginning to think that Tough Mudder was out to destroy my testicles through an excessive use of cold water. A series of ropes stretched from one bank to another and in between was a large pool of cold water. With your back to the water you hook your feet over the ropes and then use your upper body to pull you from one side to the other. Toward the middle the rope dips down enough that part of your body has to be in the water and the water is cold enough to earn the title for this obstacle.
On their website they claim this is a trademark obstacle and man, does this thing surprise you. At this point I had pretty much lost track of how many obstacles, how many miles, what was left, etc. All of the mud started to blend together and you get used to trudging through it every so often. This trench, which probably was not more than 8 feet across, had something in the bottom of it that felt like quicksand. Once I stepped in I knew it was different. It felt like the ground grabbed a hold of my feet and wouldn’t let go. People were yelling at each other to keep moving or you would lose your shoes. Like I said, it really threw me off guard as I was expecting just regular mud, not that mess.
In between obstacles, you know, because running and obstacles are not enough, there were various pits of mud. Some long, some short. One such pit felt like quicksand. I have no idea what they put in there but it was nearly impossible to move your feet out of it. Several times we came across signs that said “Velociraptor: Stay the Course”. This was a section of water and mud usually about knee deep. However, they dug random holes so as you trudge through, you may or may not step in a hole and fall in the mud. After falling a few times I started to pay attention to the person in front of me and if they did not fall, I followed their steps.
Coming up on this obstacle, I was pretty tired. But thankfully, there was a little bit of a line, which allowed me to catch my breath. The freaky part of this was that as we came up to it, the EMTs were hauling a lady off with a neck brace on. Nice way to be introduced to an obstacle right? I think I made it half way before losing balance and falling into the water. With the wind, muddy shoes, and unsteady beam, I am still puzzled at how people made it across this thing while making it look so easy.
Or as I like to call it, the one thing that would stop my wife from doing Tough Mudder. A lengthy black pipe directed us down toward another bit of water and mud which was topped with barbed wire preventing you from standing up. From there, you went back up the piping. Only catch was that it was slick inside. No groves or anything to grip and it was covered with water and mud from the people before us. I am not really sure how I got out other than scooting up inch by inch. As I neared the end, I saw a hand reach out and I grabbed it. Dude was super strong because he yanked my big butt outta there like I was a rag doll.
Walk the Plank
As you round the corner you can see the platforms for this and they didn’t look too bad. Getting up to them you have to scale some inclined planks and had a Marine yelling at you not to use the side railing. With my height, I was able to jump up and get enough of a grip to pull me up and to the top. Now, I am not afraid of heights. I have been on a 300’ high bungee swing and gone skydiving. So why did this jump from about 15-20 feet slightly freeze me up? Wish I knew, but it did. I just wish I had done a cannonball instead of just jumping in. The water at the bottom, of course, was freaking cold. We had to do a very short swim to the side. What is the best thing to do when you are cold and wet? Yea, I was just about to say run up and down hills and trenches carved in dirt.
I guess since Florida is primarily flat, they brought in this dirt to carve out hills and slopes. Few things in the course gassed me like this. Up and down, up and down, up and down. I did my best to pick up my pace and at least keep a slow jog but I was pretty winded at this point. Thankfully they were not so steep that you had to run up. Going down the hills was pretty easy, just had to make sure that I didn’t twist an ankle or anything as some of the sand was soft.
This obstacle was a series of hay bales and you were supposed to climb the first one and then jump from one to the next. Given how tired I was, I scaled each one separately. Both of my shins were beat to pieces and hurt any time something touched them. As silly as it sounds, this was torture for that very reason. Instinctively I would jump up and land on my right shin, which is the one that hurt the most and would just cringe every time. I was happy to see a water/food station right after this because I was parched.
Fire Walker (Mile 8)
Shorter than I expected, this was really interesting to me. So much of the course was water, mud, and cold. It was really different to go through something so hot. There was so much smoke that you could not really see in front of you, much less breathe. I think that this was one of the first times that I actually noticed an official photographer. As gassed as I was I tried to look like I was not getting my rear end handed to me. Don’t think that I pulled it off so well.
12’ Berlin Walls
As much as I would love to tell you that I beat every single obstacle, I didn’t. No point in lying about it to save face on a blog. This was the second set of walls and these were much taller than the first. This obstacle, like many others, was meant to do using team work. As much as my buddies tried to help, I just couldn’t get the right grip secured enough to haul my rear end over the wall. I have to give them credit for helping me. I think my weight (yes, I am still insecure about it) and upper body strength were what got me here.
Hold Your Wood
No clue what mile I was at, it just felt far. You came to a giant stack of logs and had to grab one and carry it. Since this is Tough Mudder, you don’t just trot up a hill or around the corner. No. You have to go out in the water and carry this log in chest deep water and then come back around. My two friends had already gotten ahead of me but I caught them during this obstacle. I think the medicine ball runs we had done at CrossFit helped prepare for this because the log didn’t really seem all that heavy. I actually was able to catch my breath a little bit here.
At mile 10, we came to the funky monkey. Despite being told not to wear my gloves to do this by a friend, I did it anyway. And I came 3 bars short from making it to the other side. I was so ticked off. Even though my upper body was tired and my arms hurt, I just knew I would make it across. What I did wrong here was not just the gloves, but not being patient enough. I started to go too close to the girl in front of me. I had to wait a little on her which sucked when you are hanging there trying to move. I think that had I given myself a little more buffer I would have been fine and made it across. Instead, I found myself dropped in more cold water.
Just the Tip
Wasn’t really feeling this obstacle. Not at all. You see, I will never be the guy that when people say “Do you know Jason?” that they answer with “Oh, yea. He is that super flexible guy right?” This was basically a wall with a small ledge for your feet and for your hands. You somehow had to move alongside the wall like freaking Spiderman. I fell off a few times because I just couldn’t get my feet turned enough to keep them on that little ledge.
Cargo Net Crawl
When I saw this obstacle, I actually felt pretty good. Not physically, mind you, but because I knew we were close to the end. We had watched some of the course prior to starting it and saw people go through this. Naturally, by the time we got there we had to deal with a lot more people. I managed to crawl my way down and then back up to the next platform. Only thing was that the netting ended so far up under the platform that you couldn’t reach your arms up and over to get a grip on anything. It took 2 guys to pull me up and over.
If you have read all this so far, I have to admit that even though I made it through and even though these things are designed to be done as a team, this mentally defeated me. If you have lost any amount of weight you can relate when I say that a part of me will always see me as that 300 pound guy. At the moment it took a second guy to reach for me and pull me up, I felt instantly like the old 300 pound Jason. I was embarrassed. I wanted the strength to do it on my own and didn’t have it.
One of the pinnacle obstacles was this giant half pipe, guarded by Marines, which was also covered with oil and mud. At this point, I was so exhausted and just wanted to rest. I could feel the Florida sun had already burned me and my legs, head, and arms were hot. There was a sea of people in front of us waiting for their turn to run up the ramp. My buddy Josh looked at me, and with what appeared to be the same amount of exhaustion as I felt, told me he didn’t really want to wait to go through it. He said he was just ready for it to be over. He basically said what I felt. My body had taken a pounding and I was tired. With that, we both agreed to walk around the obstacle. Again, I would love to tell you something different. I would love to show a photo of me conquering this. What I did not admit to him, was that after that cargo net crawl and it taking 2 guys to pull me up and over, my self esteem had taken such a blow that I was not ready to hang it out there again on this half pipe. Right or wrong, that is what happened.
Hats off to my friend Peto. He scaled this thing and much like everything else in this course, I never saw it get the best of him. If he was tired, hurting, or worn out, it never showed. He, along with Josh, could have easily left me in the dust. Even though they got pretty far ahead at times, it was still cool that they would look back and let me catch up. Come to think of it, I think Peto made it through every obstacle like a champ. Maybe one day I can say the same.
The last obstacle was the electric shock and I was so ready to be done with the course. I am guessing it was an 800m run from the previous obstacle to this one and it certainly didn’t seem long. But my legs were so tired I could only manage a decent jog. I wanted to walk some but being so close to the finish I had to just do it. Funny how approaching a giant obstacle full of live wires helps your speed.
Going through I got zapped 3 times, all on my right side. My buddy Peto got hit as well. One of the times he got hit was on his arm and he ended up falling. It was right as we made it out and I stopped when I saw him fall and reached out a hand. He got up laughing. He told me later that when his arm got hit that his leg locked up on him and he fell.
And with that, we crossed the finish line. No medals. No ticking clock. Just an orange headband. But what a head band it was. It was this really great mixture of relief, accomplishment, and exhaustion all rolled into one moment, so similar, yet so much different than my marathon last month. If I had to guess our time, I would say we did it in about 2:45.
Since I had put about 385 miles on my Asics, they (along with my socks) were offered up as a sacrifice to the course. I actually think it would have been better to set the socks on fire and burn them to ashes on the spot. Nasty.
We hit the showers (hoses laying on the ground) and then changed into something that was actually dry. We walked around for a little while to see everything and then finally decided we would be better off going and getting something to eat elsewhere.
I have had countless people ask me about it since doing it. Many know that I did the marathon and want to know how it compares to that. In my opinion, Tough Mudder is harder than running a marathon. With the marathon, I was able to pace myself much better. Let’s not forget the marathon was done on a paved surface! I was also able to listen to music and had a sense of time during the event. With Tough Mudder, it was filled with so many ups and downs, heat, cold, running, mud, and water that it made it nearly impossible to gauge your progress. You would have periods of running and then short bursts of strength to get through an obstacle. It was more taxing on my overall body than I felt the marathon was yet both were great endurance events.
The teamwork at the event is amazing and really helps push you. You get help through an obstacle and instead of just going, you stop to help the next few people behind you. That was really motivating to me. Much like the people on the sidelines cheering at the marathon, the help I got from fellow Mudders provided the same motivation to keep going.
Ironically, with the marathon, I took several days off from any activity after I ran it. My body was in a lot of pain. With Tough Mudder, I took one day of rest and was back at CrossFit hitting a WOD. Probably not the best idea in the world and I wouldn’t recommend it, but my body was still able to handle it, unlike the marathon. My friend Peto probably summed it up the best when he said “That event is everything that they say it is.”
Would I do one again? I have learned to never say never. There is one coming in February to Georgia and it really has the wheels turning. Regardless of whether or not I do another, I have to say that this was the best way to cap off an amazing year that was full of accomplishments I could never have dreamed of before.
52 Notes/ Hide
- cowarrior likes this
- thalasso-philous likes this
- ikkimikki likes this
- ashamedtosay likes this
- nicole-runs-strong likes this
- robownslife likes this
- runrunningrunner likes this
- thelaurenator reblogged this from ourtimetochange and added:
- thelaurenator likes this
- arigeezay likes this
- cyclingforever reblogged this from ourtimetochange
- rxingmyazzoff likes this
- runsforredvelvet likes this
- runningchaos said: wow, well I thought I never wanted to do this but wow maybe someday soon now congrats!
- runningchaos likes this
- ohh-shenanigans said: You, sir, are a colossal badass. Well done!!
- brandigetsfit likes this
- wshfullyshrnkng likes this
- chrisbiketri likes this
- chrisbiketri said: Best recap. Ever!
- chrystidoeslife likes this
- runslikeapenguin likes this
- runslikeapenguin said: I CAN’T LIKE THIS ENOUGH! You are an inspiration to us all :)
- themegatronic reblogged this from ourtimetochange and added:
- themegatronic likes this
- itstartedwith reblogged this from ourtimetochange
- run-doozer-run likes this
- cupcakesandchaucer likes this
- 99pounds reblogged this from ourtimetochange and added:
- sunshineandhipline likes this
- brooksylite likes this
- ouray likes this
- theyellowgatejourney likes this
- levanna likes this
- selfmademagic said: Awesome recap and what an accomplishment!
- mr-smit likes this
- trish-runs-the-world-away likes this
- runningwithguts likes this
- runningwithguts said: I think you’ve just converted me to Tough Mudder in training. This sounds AWESOME.
- roaarshock likes this
- betternikki said: What an incredible experience!
- 99pounds said: THIS IS AWESOME!!! I love it and I’m so jealous I couldn’t do it, too. Next time. Are you doing the Savage Race in Orlando next March? I’ll be there :) And is the girl in the blue striped shirt in your last picture picking a wedgie? ;)
- rfgr-26 said: This might be my favorite race recap ever. You were right about the sense of teamwork, gives me chills! And never say never! I want to see Tough Mudder #2!
- rfgr-26 likes this
- 99pounds likes this
- beckylosesit likes this
- catchingmyselfcrossfit likes this
- ourtimetochange posted this