Tough Mudder Mom

(this post was originally posted on another blog of mine. i didn’t want it to die with the blog, so i transferred it to this one.)

6 months before September 22nd 2013, my husband declared his intentions to run the Tough Mudder. for those of you who don’t know, it’s a 10-12 mile obstacle course with 18+ obstacles that are not made for wimps. after milling it over in my mind, i decided that i’d run it with him if we had a team. to be honest, i had my doubts that we’d be able to pull together team. after all, the race (actually, it’s not a race- it’s a challenge) is hard. somehow, we managed to pull together a really awesome team, and our start time was set. 

The Day Before

for the last 6 months i had been training. when i signed up, i couldn’t run more than 3 miles in one go, i couldn’t do any pullups, and i was utterly terrified. The entire 6 months i tried to stick with my training schedule. sometimes i didn’t succeed, but in the end i got results that made me happy. when i finally worked myself up to running 5 miles, i ran a minimum of 5 miles every other day. when i wasn’t running, i was working on my calisthenics… i did 1 round of 20 burpees-ups, 30 burpees, 100 crunches, 60 pushups, 50 squats, 50 lunges, and 30 supported pullups. Then, if i hadn’t run earlier that day, i did it all again. by the day before the Tough Mudder, i could do pullups, had run 10 miles a week ago, and actually felt confident that i had done everything i could to get my body in shape. i’m not a fast runner, but i didn’t need to be. it was the cardio fitness i wanted. i couldn’t do a million pullups, but i didn’t have to. i just needed enough upper body strength to pull myself over an obstacle one at a time. the day before the race, i did nothing except drink 96 ozs water and freak out. when my husband first pointed out the Tough Mudder race, i flatly told him that i would never be able to do that…. and there i was, about to do that. 

The Morning Of

That morning, my alarm was set for 6, but i was wide-ass-awake by 5. i planned my wake up time so i’d have plenty of time to eat, drink coffee, and get dressed in a leisurely fashion. there’s nothing worse than being terrified AND in a rush. i packed dates in a belt pack because I am a vegan, and i heard they’d have energy snacks along the way, but wasn’t sure what kind. i didn’t want to introduce dairy into my diet while i was under that kind of stress, and end up making myself sick. i dressed in moisture wicking under-shorts, tight yoga pants, and a moisture wicking tank top. (a sports bra is a given) i wore my Merrell Pace Gloves, the shoes i bought a year and 2 months ago when i began my fitness journey by running. i knew that whatever pair of shoes i wore in the Mudder would be destroyed, and since i got those shoes i’ve clocked in over 400 miles. They were falling apart, and it was time to retire them. i figured it would be a fitting send-off for the shoes i have loved so much, and for the shoes that began it all.

Upon Arrival

when we got there, i was jittery and nervous. i had never seen so many fit people in one place in my life… it was awesome. they wrote my number on my forehead and my arm, and i pinned my number to my waist. the only thing i forgot to do was put sunblock on. i accepted the fact that i would be burnt to a crisp by the end of the event, and moved on. i peed for the umpteenth time, i took nervous sips of water. i stretched, and made jokes, and bounced on the balls of my feet. we were the last heat of the entire event, so we were pretty special… we got to sing the national anthem instead of just listen to it, and my favorite quote of the day was said: “you are the Sunday mudders. you don’t need any time to rest. you’re going to go to work on Monday bloody, muddy, and drunk. you’re going to put your feet up on the desk, and ask your boss for a raise.”

The Race

the race…. well, it was actually pretty awesome. our track was 11 miles long and had 18 mapped obstacles, with a few surprise obstacles thrown in. when i examined the map before hand, i had picked 4 obstacles i would skip over. i am not a strong swimmer because i can’t go underwater without holding my nose. i can swim, but if i’m underwater, i need a hand free to plug my nose. i decided beforehand that all the obstacles involving tight spaces and water immersion weren’t for me, and there were 4 of them. in the end, they were do-able. only 2 obstacles proved themselves too tough for me to handle. the first was Dark Lightening. that’s basically a crawlspace filled with several inches of water and hanging electrical wires. our team consisted of 3 women and 3 men, and all the women decided to bypass that obstacle. upon seeing the faces of the men as they exited this obstacle, we were very, very happy we did. there isn’t a single shred of regret in my mind for having bypassed it, because those dudes were pissed off and miserable. getting repeatedly shocked while crawling through water in a dark crawlspace? no thanks. i’m here for fun-torture, not torture-torture. 😉 the other obstacle i skipped was the Berlin Walls. i didn’t skip it because i didn’t want to do it… i skipped it because i physically couldn’t do it. the walls were 12 feet tall with no handholds, and by the time our group got to it, they were so slimy and muddy that i would say over 75% of the mudders in our heat skipped them over as well. only 2 of our group successfully completed that obstacle. i actually did 3 of the other obstacles i initially said i wouldn’t. mostly it was so i could get in the water to wash the mud off. in one obstacle, the Boa Constrictor, our teamwork was at it’s best. in the Mudder you can go in with a team, but once you pass the starting line, the whole group is a team, and you don’t leave anybody behind. without a teammate to pull me out of the Constrictor, i don’t know if i could have pulled myself out because it was so slippery and tight. the rather large and muscley guy who went in behind me actually got stuck…. i heard him begin to get panicky saying “oh shit, i’m stuck. i didn’t know i was claustrophobic until now…” i told him that if he promised not to pull my shoe off, i’d shove my leg down in there and pull him out. i braced one foot on the edge of the tube and thanked every single squat i had done over the last 6 months as i pulled this very large dude out of the pipes. when he finally got out he said “thank you so much, you’re my hero.” 🙂 i’m not gonna lie, that made me feel pretty good. throughout the course of the event i was being pulled up and out by many different people whose faces i will never remember, and did the same for others. it was definitely an experience for the books. (or the blog!) my mantra for the day was “keep breathing, and keep moving forward”. it worked pretty well.

The Conclusion

it’s been less than 24 hours since i crossed the finish line of my first Tough Mudder, and my husband has already signed us up for the next one… 8 months from now. i am bruised (i bruise easily, so this isn’t a surprise) i am exhausted and sore, but i feel good about what i accomplished. i retired my favorite pair of running shoes by donating them to a good cause, i finished an event i never thought i would be able to.

My Advice

jog. you only have to work up to 5 miles at a slow pace, but you’ll be thankful for the cardio during the Mudder.
help others, and allow yourself to be helped. it really is a team sport.
keep breathing, and keep moving forward. that’s half the game in the harder obstacles. they suck, but you’ll finish as long as you keep moving forward. you can even skip some obstacles, and as long as you keep moving forward, you’ll still finish.
drink the water, eat the snacks. even if you don’t quite feel it, just eat a little and take a few sips of water at least. on my Mudder course, there were Cliff Builder Bars and Cliff Energy Chews. they were fantastic. there were also bananas, which i decided to pass on. shortly after passing on the bananas, i got hungry. thankfully i brought some dates along in a belt pack. i wrapped them all individually in saran wrap, bagged 3 in one snack baggy, 3 in another snack baggy, then double bagged those together. then put another ziplock baggy over them. i got them out around mile 8 and they were dry and fresh as they were when i wrapped them the night before. i only ate one, then passed the rest out to my fellow mudders to keep us going. it was fantastic… 130 calories per medjool date, nature’s little energy pack. also, i don’t ever want to forget the grateful look of the guy who lost his shoes on the course when i gave him a date. i’m pretty sure i was carried over the finish line by my teammates and a date. i will do it the next time as well.

My Favorite Obstacle: Just the Tip. i didn’t expect to make it across that one, but i did.
My Least Favorite Obstacle: Mud Mile. it didn’t even occur to me to worry about this one, but it was awful. the hills were over 6 feet high, and a minimum of 3 feet of mud in the bottom. we slid everywhere, got completely covered in mud, and the majority of my bruises were gotten by sliding uncontrolled down the other side. that was the most miserable of all the obstacles, and had they had one more hill than they did, i may have climbed out the side and said FUCK IT.
Honorable Mention: the Arctic Enema. i knew it was going to be awful. i knew my muscles would seize, my breath would catch, and my mouth would curse. what i didn’t expect was for my lower extremities to hurt so goddamn much. my legs were numb, but my lady parts fucking froze. i was very, very, veryveryvery glad i was not a dude when i got out of that one. to the volunteer who stuck that hand out at me on the other side to pull me out: THANK YOU. without that hand of salvation waving in my face, i may have just stood there and cursed until i turned into a meat popsicle.

and that’s that. i’m a 31 year old mother of 2, and i just completed my first Tough Mudder.