Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tough Mudder, Indiana - All the Muddy Details

Tough Mudder was early Saturday morning so we set out Friday night in our rented mini-van, heading to our first hotel in Lafayette, IN.  Andy graciously volunteered to drive but seemed to be regretting that decision about 45 minutes into the 4-hour drive.  (Not entirely without good reason but we do have to stop and use the bathroom at some point!)  Luckily we found a "Disco Divas" CD at the gas station and that really seemed to lighten the mood.  At least for the duration of the CD.  

Eventually we made it the Super 8, where we met an extremely frazzled concierge.  Knowing there were a lot of people staying at that and surrounding hotels for TM, we innocently asked if there was some event happening.  She said, "Something called Tough Mudder?"  In a very disgusted tone, she started going on and on about how you pay all this money just to get dirty, it's so stupid, you don't even get a shirt (which you do, although it turned out to be a crappy cotton one), blah, blah, blah.  She went on for like 5 minutes.  We were laughing so hard!  Especially because Haikel was going along with it, acting even more incredulous than she was.  She had no clue that we were there for TM ourselves and we thought it was best not to tell her.  Maybe you had to be there but it was hilarious! 

Anyway, then we pretty much just finalized plans for the morning, made sure we had our uniforms set and ready, and went to bed.  I think it was maybe around midnight by that time.  

Erica, Christie, and I set three alarms for 6:00, 6:03, and 6:08, got dressed, and were at the van promptly at 6:30.  Everyone was kind enough to make it a Starbucks breakfast for my sake so I could have oatmeal.  Erica, Scott, and Cristie had oatmeal, as well.  Haikel had one of the sweet breads and Andy had already eaten some homemade chia gel.  I also ate a banana.  No coffee, though.  I think that would have put me over the edge.  And then we were off to Attica, Indiana.  

Me, Erica, Haikel, Christie in the van

Our wave time wasn't until 10:40 but we were hoping to get there early and jump into an earlier wave.  It was already hot (temps were in the mid-80's) and the later we started the hotter it was going to be.  Everything was easy when we got there - parking, packet pick-up, bag-drop-off.  They wrote our bib numbers on our forehead and arm or leg.  (You can wear your bib if you want but most of us opted not to do so since most people lose them anyway.)  

Andy, Erica, Christie, and me after the registration tent
Scott is ready to go!

We were able to sneak into the 9:00 a.m. wave.  To get in you have to climb a wall, but that was super easy compared to the Berlin Walls that were to come later.  Once in you listen to a motivational pump-up speech about how hard the course is, mental grit, and helping out your fellow Mudder.  You sing the "National Anthem".  And of course there's some Eminem.

Then you just start running.  Through the sand and gravel and dirt.  Over rocks.  Up hills and down.  We ran for almost a mile, I think, before we came to the first obstacle, which was the first set of Berlin Walls.  Honestly, I can't remember the order of the rest of the obstacles - it's all sort of a blur right now - but these are the obstacles we faced on Saturday:


Berlin Walls #1 (wooden 8' walls) - The first set of walls wasn't so bad.  Of course, for me, none of them were too bad because I just put each of my feet in a guy's hand and they launched me up to the top.  Then I pulled myself up and over and dropped off the other side.  The guys basically got themselves up and over on their own.  There were 2 walls right in a row.  

Swamp Stomp (run through a swampy area) - This was our first taste of mud.  Literally.  Scott made sure to splash us all with mud when we ran through and I got some in my mouth.

Kiss of Mud (crawl under barbed wire) - The website billed this as 8" barbed wire so I anticipated having to belly crawl through this part.  It wasn't that low, however, because I was able to go through on my hands and knees, which was good because instead of mud it was gravel and very rough on the elbows.  This one was easy.

Arctic Enema (plunge into icy water) - What shocked me most about this one wasn't the temperature of the water.  It was the fact that A) it came earlier in the course than I was anticipating and B) the water was disgustingly dirty and I had to dunk myself under it.  That I was not anticipating.  I guess I should have watched a video of this one beforehand to know what to expect.  Anyway, poor Andy was standing in the ice bath, quite literally freezing his balls off, trying first to coax me into the water and then convince me to take a deep breath and swim under the water.  When I finally did I emerged for air with a muddy ice cube in each eye socket.  Sweet.

Greased Lightning (giant Slip 'N Slide down a hill) - I sat down, slid a couple of feet, and then just stopped.  I had no momentum!  Just as I was about to push myself to get going, Andy came flying from behind, scissored me, and we both went down the hill together.  It was hilarious!

Mud Mile (run over a series of muddy trenches) - I was pretty dainty on the mud hills here, choosing to run down instead of slide.  I could have saved some time if I had slid - and probably had more fun!

Log-Jammin' (crawl under and over logs) - This was one of my favorite obstacles.  It was just logs stacked 2-3 high that you alternated going over and under.  Only once did I need help going over.  Usually I was able to find some footing to help myself up.  It was a fun challenge.   

Berlin Walls #2 (wooden 9' walls) - A little higher, a little more challenging.  Again there were two walls.  I cursed loudly upon seeing the second wall.

Walk the Plank (jump off a 15' platform) - I was a little nervous at this but not as nervous as I thought I'd be.  I didn't linger long thinking about it.  We all just went for it.  Scott and I jumped on the count of 3.  I held my nose.  At the last second I remembered my head band but it was too late and I lost it.  That was the worst part about this obstacle.

Creek Crusade (run up a riverbed) - We didn't run here because there were a lot of rocks and logs to trip on, plus the depth of the water kept changing so you never knew when you'd suddenly be in a hole.  It felt a lot safer to walk. 

Devils Beard (crawl under a stretched cargo net) - Just like it sounds.  Not at all difficult.

Killa Gorilla (run up and down steep hills) - These seemed to be all throughout.  You had to just go for it and keep running so you didn't backslide on the sandy hills.  Going down was often harder than going up.

Trench Warfare (belly-crawl through earthen tunnels) - Like the barbed wire, these were high enough to go through on hands and knees.  They were also filled with gravel so hands and knees were a better option than belly-crawling. 

Firewalker (run through burning hay bales) - This one wasn't nearly as bad as I feared but only because it was so quick.  It was over before we knew it. Thankfully - because inhaling that smoke for any longer would have been brutal!

Boa Constrictor (crawl through sections of 3' pipe) - Initially I'd been worried about this one but it turned out to be one of my favorites.  Like the other crawling obstacles, these were tall enough to go on my hands and knees.  After going through the first set of tubes you emerge into a little pool of muddy water under some barbed wire before going back into another set of tubes.  It was like being in "Shawshank Redemption."  Very cool.

Just the Tip (shimmy along narrow board) - This turned out to be impossible for all of us, especially with wet hands.  I "attempted" it but it was a pretty lackluster effort.  I thought it was a dumb obstacle.

Hay Bale Pyramid (stack of hay bales to climb) - Just like it sounds.  It was fun and a good leg workout.

Berlin Walls #3 (wooden 11' walls) - These were obviously the most challenging, since they were the tallest and we were the most tired.  Even with the guys launching me up it took two tries because I had trouble reaching the top of the wall and getting a grip.  We were all relieved to get over the wall and see that there was only one this time. 

Spider's Web (crawl up cargo nets over a shipping container) - This one was fun.  It was just a huge web to crawl up one side and down the other.  When you were waiting to climb you had to help your fellow Mudders by holding the net steady otherwise it was really difficult.

Hold Your Wood (1/4 mile log carry) - The logs came in various sizes so you could find a good fit for you.  We walked but I guess we could have picked up the pace by running.

Electric Eel (slide over water getting shocked) - I have a funny story about Electric Eel.  This one is basically a flat, muddy Slip 'N Slide that you crawl across but it has live wires hanging down.  When they touch you you feel a shock.  Andy and I started crawling through and after a few seconds I said to him, "I haven't been shocked yet, have you?"  He said, "Yes, about 6 or 7 times."  Then I felt a little twitch in my leg and it registered that I, too, had been shocked about 6 times, as well.  I just didn't realize that's what it was!  So clearly, it wasn't that bad to be shocked.  I got hit quite a few more times before reaching the end.  No biggie. 

Twinkle Toes (balance beams over water pit) - I made it all the way across!  The beams were pretty wobbly and there were a couple of points where I wasn't sure I was going to make it but I did.  I think half of us made it.  The others just jumped/fell in the water and swam to the end.

Funky Monkey (monkey bars over water pit) - I was ready for the Funky Monkey.  We'd been practicing monkey bars for weeks so I was ready.  When we got to them my hands were really wet so I used the dusty ground to dry them off.  In fact, I even put on a little show for the crowd and did a Lebron James chalk toss imitation.  Then one of the spectators said, "We've even seen a few girls make it across."  After that I HAD to make it across.  And I did.  Hoo-rah!

Everest (greased up 1/4 pipe) - Ugh, Everest.  This one sucked.  BIG TIME.  I put this up there with the third Berlin Wall in terms of how challenging it was.  Not only is it hard enough to run up a 1/4 pipe but it's a greased 1/4 pipe with a mud puddle in front of it so your feet are very slippery.  Plus this is the second to last obstacle so you're pretty tired at this point.  Anyway, you basically just run up it and there are people hanging out at the top to grab hold of your hands or arms and pull you up.  My attempt wasn't very good but it was good enough for the guys at the top to grab my hands and pull.  Still it was pretty hard for me to swing my legs up and over the top because I was so low down and sort of pushing away from the pipe.  I almost couldn't do it.  I was so relieved to climb down the back and be done with that one! 

Electroshock Therapy (run through electrified wires) - Ah, electrocution.  The final obstacle.  I'd definitely built this one up to be much worse than it was.  I only got electrocuted three times, all in the arm, and it was basically just like a really strong shock.  I screamed each time but just kept running.  I think some wires had higher voltage than others, though, because Christie swears she saw a flash of white light.  Thankfully I didn't experience that! 

Mud Pits - All these obstacles were interspersed with countless mud pits to wade through.  The consistency of the mud varied greatly, from silky smooth to thick clam chowder to wet clay.  Sometimes the suction was so strong that I physically had to pick up my leg to with both hands to move it.  Or have someone else pick up my leg for me.  At one point I was so stuck that I had Andy pulling both my hands and two guys I didn't know lifting each of my legs to get me pulled up and out of the mud.  Those mud pits really slowed me down!  Poor Erica had to take off her shoes in two of the pits!

Check out the "Tough Mudder Indiana 2012 Official Video" below to really get a good idea of what we went through with some of the obstacles!


What was the hardest part about TM?  The mud sucked, but that wasn't the worst.  It kills me to say this but for me, the hardest part was the running.  And you know I'm a runner.  I thought that's where I would breeze through.  But I'm not used to trail running.  And even though I knew it would be trail running it was still even harder than I imagined.  It wasn't just dirt, which I could have dealt with.  I ran on that last week and did pretty well.  This was sand, gravel, and rocks.  This was lots of up and down.  This was running with water-logged and mud-caked shoes.  This was running with an elevated heart rate after completing an obstacle.  This was running like I have never run before.  And I was slow.  At least I'd already acclimated myself to running in heat and humidity, so that was something I could deal with.  But the terrain was completely foreign to me.  And it was killing me.  Mentally more than anything, I guess.  

Oh, did I mention I also bruised my tailbone on the Slip 'N Slide around mile 2?  Yeah, so that slowed me down and made running for 10 miles pretty painful, as well.  So I suppose I could give myself a bit of a break on the running.  Christie injured her foot on the Slip N' Slide, so that slowed her down substantially for the remaining 10 miles, as well.  Seriously, we both got injured on the stupid Slip 'N Slide?!?  Go figure . . .

But we kept running.  Man, did we keep running.  It might have been slow but we ran the whole way baby.  From one obstacle to the next.  And let me tell you, there were so many people who were walking.  We'd get people cheering us on for running but it seemed silly to walk.  We weren't that tired and we just wanted to finish. 


The estimated completion time for the course was 3 hours but it took our team 4 hours.  Given the the heat, that was actually OUR estimated completion time so we were right on track.  Were we tired when we finished?  Yes.  But it was more like we felt like we'd just been out in the sun all day and needed a nap.  None of us felt like we'd just worked our asses off slogging through a 12-mile course of mud and obstacles.  I think that's where our training and already being in good shape really paid off.  

Were we muddy when we finished?  YES!  Throughout the course whenever I got into some really silky mud - spa mud - I'd rub it all over my arms to make "mud sleeves" for myself.  I figured it would help protect me from the sun and also give me a good spa treatment at the same time.  Plus it felt so refreshing and cooling! 

So after we were done, we got our stupid cotton tee shirts (seriously, this thing is sponsored by Under Armour and we got cotton tee shirts?!?) celebrated with our free beer (I donated mine to Haikel and Scott and ate a banana instead) and then went straight to the camp showers.  Haikel and I helped hose each other off.  I needed a LOT of work!  We we singing, "We're workin' at the car wash!" and hogging the sprayers for some time but it was so much fun!  And there was SO MUCH MUD!! 

There were also feats of strength afterwards like push-up contests, pull-up contests, a Jacob's ladder, and a keg toss.  Scott tried out the keg toss and came awfully close to taking down the cardboard cutout of Fabio.  So close . . .

A lot of people donated their shoes at the end.  I saved mine since I already have two more mud runs coming up in August and September.

We all had a change of clothes in the car so we just stripped down in the parking lot.  Even though we still weren't exactly clean it felt good to be in fresh, dry clothes.  We drove to our next hotel in Indianapolis where we all took long showers, used lots of Q-tips, got something to eat, and then all met up for drinks to celebrate.  

Then on Sunday we drove home.  Surprisingly, I didn't feel very sore.  Other than my tailbone - which will take some time to heal - I felt about as sore as I'd feel from a hard boot camp class.  I resumed my normal workouts on Monday without any trouble.  (Although I did get an extra good night's sleep on Sunday!)  

I've definitely got some scrapes and bruises but not much more than I got from our training sessions.  So all in all it was not nearly as bad as I'd feared.  Our training sessions definitely paid off and I would highly recommend them to anyone doing a TM event.  If nothing else, they took away my fear of getting bruised and scraped up, gave me the confidence to tackle the obstacles at hand, and helped us get comfortable working together as a team.

Would I do another Tough Mudder?  Hell yeah!  I already plan on doing the one next summer in Michigan (June 29th-30th, Ann Arbor area).  This time I'll be ready with the trail running, be more careful on the Slip 'N Slide, and hopefully be able to move through the obstacles more quickly.  For my first time, though, I just didn't know what to expect.  

But hey, we made it.  We are Tough Mudders! 

The Rhodes Scholars Team - Thanks for the capturing this moment, Degree Men!  Winking smile

*Once I get the photos from the camera Scott took on the course I'll post them.  Those will be the muddy pictures!!


  1. You completed the greasy Funky Monkey? Impressive.

    1. I know, right?!? Truth be told, it wasn't greasy. By that point I think it was all worn off - an advantage to taking your time getting to that obstacle. :)