The Tough Mudder was the first race I heard about regarding OCR. I had a few friends who completed one and told me about it. It honestly sounded like something that wasn’t for me. For those that don’t know, the Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile OCR with 20 + obstacles. I’ve read that a lot of “seasoned” OCR’s don’t believe this is a true OCR, but I beg to differ. This is an OCR! Since I’m more of a short distance guy I never gave this race any serious consideration. Up until this point the longest distance I’ve ever completed was 8 miles. You’d think that adding 2 more miles would be no big deal. To me, it was. This race actually scared me based off of videos and reviews. It’s the only race I’ve ever felt scared about attempting. The Tough Mudder advertises themselves as “probably the toughest event on the planet”. A lot of races have a similar slogan, but there slogan is true. I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.
Before you read any further, I really need to make an important point. If you are going to do a Tough Mudder you need to train. You need to be out exercising on a regular basis. This race is no joke. If you don’t train you could seriously hurt yourself here. I’m not trying to scare you away from the Tough Mudder because it’s an awesome event. However, you don’t want to get hurt doing something fun.
Like I mentioned before I had no desire to add a Tough Mudder to my resume. So why did I decide to add one? The answer is pretty simple for this. The race was held 20 minutes from where I live. Although, I had my reservations I couldn’t pass up an OCR 20 minutes from my house. If the Tough Mudder wasn’t so close I wouldn’t have registered. Also, they had a pretty nice promo price when I registered so that helped as well. Promo pricing is the best! I’m glad I did the Tough Mudder because I would have missed out on a wonderful challenge both physically and mentally.
We had a team of nine for this race. This is the only race I’d say the more people you have the better. Since the race is untimed we could work at our own pace and not have to worry about our time. Besides myself, there was Cait, Keith, Alan, Katie, Dean, Thad, Sam and Carolyn. Ah, we had some new people! Yes, new to the team for this race were Dean, Thad, Sam and Carolyn. This was also the first Tough Mudder for all of us. For Thad, Sam and Carolyn it was their first OCR. I helped grow the sport! Now that you know the background and the characters let’s get to the experience.
The race was held in the middle of October. It meant either it was going to be warm or cold. It turned out to be cold. Cold is probably an understatement, but we’ll get to that later. The course was 10 miles. I guess we lucked out that it wasn’t 12 miles! I thought since the location was pretty close to me it would be flat. I was completely wrong about that one. They incorporated some rolling hills into the course that added a challenge. Most of the course was in open grass fields with some woods scattered throughout. I think the open terrain contributed to the cold factor because the wind was brutal. We enjoyed being in the woods because it helped break up the wind a lot.
After a nice warm up session and motivational speech (probably the best one of any race) we began our 10 mile battle. When we first started the sun was out and it wasn’t that cold. At about the first mile marker it became overcast and we could feel the temperature drop. It would be this way the remainder of the day. We were in no rush to finish and did a soft jog until we reached the first group of obstacles. The first obstacle was Ladder To Hell. It was a tall ladder built out of telephone poles that we had to climb up and over. We all made our way through that one with no problem. Next came a barbed wire crawl. This is when I realized I forgot my gloves. Mistake #4. Gloves are very important to me! We got through the barbed wire, but I got caught by one pretty good. It was the first time I ever got snagged on barbed wire. Good thing I just got my tetanus shot a few weeks prior. Seriously though, if you do these types of event you should have a tetanus shot.
Now this is where things get funny and interesting. Remember the time I told you about Sam running out of her shoes in a mud pit? This was that race! It was so funny, I felt bad, but it was funny. Her feet were covered in so much mud it was difficult for her to get her shoes back on her feet. Also all the mud prevented her from being able to untie her shoes. It was a funny mess she got herself into. Sorry Sam! We came across another obstacle where we had to jump over a small stream of running water and then run through mud. I’m guessing Sam thought she might lose her shoe again. Well, she didn’t, but someone else did. A girl completely lost her shoe in the water. Her entire team was trying to find it ,but they couldn’t. This leads me to another question. If you lost your shoe during a mud run would you continue to race? I honestly don’t think I could. I’d be too worried I’d permanently mess up my feet. Hopefully that poor girl found her shoe. For the record, we were about two miles into the race at this point so no one was even close to the end.
Even though we were going through some mud we were still pretty dry. That wouldn’t last long because we came to Cry Baby. In Cry Baby we crawled through water and mud while be peppered with tear gas. While in the “tear gas chamber” it didn’t really seem like tear gas. It had a minty smell, which was oddly enjoyable. Some of us wanted to go through again! Now we were soaked and Arctic Enema was up next.
Tip: I kept my eyes closed through the crawl and followed the person in front of me. This prevented my eyes from watering. The mysterious gas could make your eyes water.
This was one of two obstacles we had no desire to complete. We did it anyway! Arctic Enema was a dumpster full of ice water that we slid into. It’s comparable to Shriveled Richard (Savage Race) but we didn’t have to go under the water. Every person that slid into the dumpster let a high pitched scream or moan out of some sort. Most people were going under the water after the slide. I still don’t understand why they were doing this. As I was sliding down I used the fence covering the slide to my advantage to slow me down. I was the only person that didn’t go under the water. It helped out tremendously. In my opinion, this wasn’t as bad as Shriveled Richard. That one was way worse.
Tip: As soon as you slide into the water get out as fast as you can. People have the tendency to stop moving. Once you’re out you need to keep your body moving to pump the blood. We did jumping jacks and it seemed to work after a few minutes.
From this point on it was brutally cold. They had warming buses along the way, but they made things worse I think. We’d get warm and then immediately go out into the cold. It made the temperature seem colder. I’m really surprised none of us ended up with hyperthermia. I know my lips were blue and I couldn’t stop shivering. This was the hardest part of the entire race. It really tested us mentally. If you consider this an obstacle then it’s the hardest one we’ve ever completed. We all relied on each other to get to the next mile. None of us thought about quitting. Besides, the walk back to the main venue was the same distance as the rest of the course.
The longest obstacle of the day was by far Mud Mile 2.0. I can’t remember how many mud mounds we had to go over. It seemed like too many to me and they were steep. The only way to get over them was by having people lift us up just enough for someone else to grab onto you. It was pretty difficult. We had to do this twice! Once up and then once back. The second half mounds were even steeper than the first half. It probably took about an hour to complete the obstacle both up and back. We didn’t think it would ever end. Thankfully Dean and Keith were there because they were able to do a lot of the lifting. We later found out that shortly after we completed the obstacle someone broke their ankle. It wouldn’t be hard for this to happen because the jump was so steep into a small amount of water. If you have glass ankles don’t attempt this obstacle.
Tip: this is more a given, but don’t wear cleats. There was a guy there wearing cleats who we helped lift over, which provided an uncomfortable experience for our hands. Also, this is a total teamwork obstacle. Don’t just help your team. Help others too!
There was one obstacle that none of us will ever forget. Everest 2.0. It was a half pipe incline that we had to run up and get to the top. It was pretty similar to Colossus (Savage Race). I was determined to beat this one. Dean got up with pretty much no help. Keith went up second followed by me third. So I finally got over this obstacle. Woo! The best part was…so did everyone else! It took a few times, but eventually everyone got to the top. We even helped others as well. Again, these races are all about teamwork.
Tip: if you have stronger people on your team have them go up first. They will be able to pull you over the top.
The final two obstacles were probably the toughest. The first was King of Swingers. In this obstacle we would swing across a 12’ deep pool of water and attempt to hit a bell. For obvious reasons I passed on this one. Keith, Dean and Cait each attempted it with Keith and Dean hitting the bell. They all said the water felt so warm compared to how cold the air was. Maybe next time I’ll just jump in to the waist deep part. The last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy. This was the one I was least looking forward to attempting. I did a similar electric shock obstacle at Run For Your Lives and it was brutal. In this one we had to run through dangling wires as they shocked us. It was quite painful, but I did it. I’ll never do it again. Luckily, once you do the obstacle once you never have to do it again at any future race. I guess it’s kind of an initiation into the Mudder Legion (for those that complete a Tough Mudder).
Tip: when running through Electroshock Therapy keep your hands in front of your face. If you fall down don’t get back up just crawl to the end.
It was a relief when we got to the finish line. We knew we had accomplished something special. At the finish line we got our headbands and shirts. The headband concept is different than most OCR’s, but I don’t think I’ll ever wear mine. You get an orange headband for each race you complete, but you also get an additional headband based off of the number of times you’ve completed a Tough Mudder (2x, 3x, 4x-6x and etc.). What would you do with your headband? The t-shirt was pretty cheap and disappointing. Apparently a lot of people felt the same because they changed them for 2016. I guess they actually do read the reviews they send out to us after these races.
The only serious safety issue we encountered throughout the race was Alan’s leg cramp. It happened at the Skidmark obstacle. Eventually he was able to get moving again, but it was a serious cramp. Throughout the race a lot of people were getting injured. We constantly saw people being carted off the course. We even saw one guy carrying his girlfriend on his back because she sprained her ankle.
The Tough Mudder was the toughest race to date. The obstacles weren’t as hard as the Spartan Sprint, but the mental toughness needed was far greater. The highlight of this race for me was the teamwork that was displayed on the course. Everyone was pushing each other to get to finish line, both teammates and strangers. There was a disappointment though. On the bus ride back to the parking lot there was a girl on our bus who didn’t finish the race. She made it to mile five and couldn’t continue. During our conversation she told me she was running by herself and the cold got the best of her. I’m willing to bet if she had a team or another person to run with she would have finished the race. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a partner or team.
I’m going to attempt another Tough Mudder in 2016. The race is coming back to the area in May so I hope it will be a lot warmer. I’m happy to report that I registered for this race again! If you’ve done a Tough Mudder I’d love to hear about your experience.
In the next mile I’ll talk about another Zombie Fun Run. Who will survive this time?