Monday, July 8, 2013

Tough Mudder, Michigan - 2013

Last Sunday I completed my second Tough Mudder event.  (You can read about my first here.)  For anyone who is unfamiliar with Tough Mudder, it's a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces.  There are 20 obstacles on the course that challenge you mentally and physically.  Many of them cannot be done alone and therefore you need a team or at least a partner to help you complete the course.  Meet my team - the Iron Eagles:

Iron Eagles (from left to right): Brian, me, and Andy

We were ready to take on Big Mudder and all he had to throw at us.  This was Andy's 3rd TM.  He and I did Indiana together last year and he also recently did one in Chicago. As I said, this was my 2nd.  Although this was Brian's 1st, he's been training for over a year so he was good and ready.  Time to put all our running and monkeying around at the park to the test.  Were we ready?  HELL YEAH!

This was the first year that Michigan hosted Tough Mudder so people showed up to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for the event in record numbers.  We signed up for Sunday, which turned out to be a slower day than Saturday.  Everything went smoothly - parking, registration, and bag drop.  No lines for port-a-potties even!  We hopped the wall just in time for the opening ceremony for our 9:20 start time.  And we were off! 


We ran the entire course, only slowing down when it was really slippery with mud.  But we didn't walk.  The terrain wasn't challenging because it was basically flat with only a few small hills.  There was some gravel and one part that was a wooded trail but the majority of it was muddy grass.  Anyone who is a good runner shouldn't have difficulty with the running component of the event, at least not here at MIS.  Plus, the longest distance between obstacles was only about a mile, so you get a lot of breaks in your running. 


Glory Blades (8' angled wooden walls) - The Glory Blades aren't particularly challenging but they certainly aren't meant to be completed on your own.  Because the walls are angled, there is no foothold to get you started.  (Although I think Brian may have gotten over on his own!)  With a boost from Andy, I could grab the top, push myself up, and swing my legs over the top and slide down the other side.

Kiss of Mud #1 (crawl through mud under barbed wire) - The barbed wire wasn't all that low on this so I was mostly able to stay on my hands and knees.  There were a few parts where it hit my head or back and I had to dip to my elbows but I emerged from this obstacle unscathed.

Firewalker (leap over fire pit into water) - I really enjoyed this obstacle, however, I was completely unprepared for it because it's been changed since I last did Tough Mudder.  While we used to run around burning hay bales that emitted thick black plumes of smoke, you now simply vault over a fire pit and plunge into a pool of muddy water.  As I ran to the flames I came to a slippery halt because I was surprised to see the water on the other side.  In the end this was much more fun - and better for my lungs!

Arctic Enema (plunge into icy water) - Ah, the Arctic Enema.  Unlike last year, I at least knew I would have to swim under the ice cube-filled water.  But knowing it didn't make it any easier.  There's still that sense of panic as you're standing in that frigid water, like "You want me to go WHERE?!" because you have to swim from one side of the icy trailer to the other.  And the only way to get there is to go under the wooden board that divides the trailer in two.  But then you do it and you're done.  The feeling comes back to your extremities.  Eventually.

Underwater Tunnels (swim under rows of floating barrels) - This was a new obstacle for me.  There were three rows of barrels tied together and all your did was swim under each row when the lifeguard told you to go.  Only a problem if you can't swim, in which case you shouldn't attempt the obstacle.  Duh.

Mud Mile (climb over a series of muddy trenches) - Because thousands of people went before us on Saturday, the mud hills had so many footprints to step in that climbing up and down wasn't hard.  Not much slipping and sliding here.  And it isn't an actual mile of mud.  The name is quite deceiving.

Logjammin' (crawl under and over logs) - This was a little bit tricky in spots because some of the logs were slippery from the rain and from muddy feet. 

Hold Your Wood (carry heavy log around a track as a team) - Last year we each carried our own piece of wood, which was easy enough.  This time we carried a team log.  Brian took the front, Andy the back, and I went in the middle.  Brian shouldered the bulk of the log's weight because he's shorter than Andy and it sloped downward.  The whole thing was quite awkward, especially on a slippery, muddy track. 

Walk the Plank (jump off a 15' platform) - I have a fear of heights so I had to psych myself up a bit for this one once I was at the top.  Then I held my nose and went for it.  Do true Mudders hold their nose?  Yes.  Yes they do.

Boa Constrictor (crawl through sections of 3' pipe) - I did this one last year but for some reason this time it freaked me out!  I had a total moment of panic as the water level was rising and I had to turn my face to the side to keep it from going under.  Before going into the second pipe I actually had to put my face under because there wasn't enough air space in the pipe and again, I had that panic moment.  I was glad to be past this obstacle!

Trench Warfare (crawl through earthen tunnels) - These weren't very shallow so we could crawl through on hands and knees.  Not scary or challenging.  No moments of panic.  (Probably because I've seen Titanic more times than movies about people being buried alive.)

Funky Monkey (monkey bars over water pit) - The Funky Monkey has nothing on me!  While it is a challenging set of bars, I'd gotten my practice in at the local park and DO eat a lot of bananas, so I was confident I would make it all the way across.  I was a little nervous about my hands being wet but was able to dry them off on the wooden boards of the monkey bar structure.  Easy peasy!  The other Iron Eagles need to eat more bananas.

Cage Crawl (pull yourself along a cage while lying on your back in the water) - Basically this was an assisted back float.  Quite refreshing and relaxing.

Electric Eel (swim/slide over water getting shocked) - Okay, so the Electric Eel sucks.  I'll give you that.  Luckily I was able to find a good path so I only got hit a few times.  Andy and Brian each got about 10 shocks but even they didn't think it was brutal.  We did, however, hear some horror stories but I think those are people who hung out in the water for too long.  The longer you're in the water the worse it is. 

Warrior Carry (carry a fellow Mudder on your back) - Since we had an odd number, this is how we worked it out: Brian carried me to the halfway exchange point while Andy hopped on one foot.  I thought I might be able to carry Brian.  Uhhh, NO.  So then Andy carried Brian while I hopped the rest of the way on one foot.  Did I look and feel ridiculous?  Yes.  Is hopping on one foot through the mud a killer calf workout?  Yes it is!

Kiss of Mud #2 (crawl through mud under barbed wire) - Same as Kiss of Mud #1, but a bit bumpier and the paths weren't as straight.

Bale Bonds (jump/climb over hay bales) - This is where I got most of my scrapes.  These were huge rolls of hay in various sizes, some as tall as 6'.  Mostly I was able to boost myself up on my own, or pull myself up with the rope that held the roll together.  Andy definitely helped me on one of them.  He and Brian were good on their own.

Berlin Walls (scale two 12' wooded walls) - To get over these, Andy and Brian boosted my feet in their hands so I could grab the top of the wall.  Then I pulled myself up to sit on the wall, and gently dropped down the other side.  Brian helped Andy.  On the first wall, Brian somehow managed to climb it all by himself!  When I dropped down from the second wall I held up my arms like a gymnast.  Some nearby EMT's gave me a 9.5 (they knocked off points because I didn't stick my landing).

Everest (greased up 1/4 pipe) - The obstacle I was least looking forward to was not 10,000 volts of electricity, not icy water, and not burning flames.  No, it was Everest - a slippery 1/4 pipe to run up.  In the end, it wasn't really so slippery.  But it still sucked.  When I was hanging there, it was my left leg that needed to go up and over.  In training, I always favored my right and 99% of the time ignored Andy's advice to practice using my left leg to swing up and over walls.  Yet here I was, faced with needing to use my left leg.  A woman I didn't know was helping to pull me over and I think she physically grabbed my foot as I shouted at her, "I don't have good mobility in my left hip!"  She just rolled her eyes. 

Electroshock Therapy (run through electrified wires) - I said this before and I'll say it again: knowing you're about to get hit with 10,000 volts of electricity is worse than actually getting hit with 10,000 volts of electricity.  Just put your head down and go for it!


And we were done!  We finished the 12-mile course in 2.5 hours.  HooRAH!  Considering I can run a half marathon road race in about an hour less than that without any mud or obstacles, I'd say that's pretty damn good.  

We hung out for a while after and did some people-watching at Electroshock Therapy.  Andy drank his free beer and mine while Brian got as many deodorants and razors as he could stuff into his free Advil bag.  Then we showered up and headed home.  

Did I love doing Tough Mudder?  Absolutely!  It was a blast, thanks to these guys right here.  Will I do another one?  I don't think I will.  But more on that in another post. 

Did you do Michigan Tough Mudder?  What did you think of it?


1 comment:

  1. I am a fairly new vegan and I want to do the Tough Mudder for the first time this year in Michigan on September 17th 2016. I have been wanting to do it for the last few years, but every year I feel like I am not in shape enough to do it. I have 9 months to get in the best shape of my life. I am vegan for ethical reasons the most, but the health reasons are almost as important. I am hoping that as a vegan I will finally be healthy and fit enough to take part in a Tough Mudder!