It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas (though that’s pretty sweet, too, even if you’re a heathen like me). Tough Mudder! This year was my second Mudder, and, despite the drastically depleted team, it was possibly more fun than the first.
We didn’t have much Mudder-specific training this year, but between the stuff we did training for the GoRuck and the massive quantity of running everyone engaged in preparing for the Chicago Ragnar, we had the tools we’d need to tackle “the toughest event on the planet.” (Description from Tough Mudder, not from me.)
Mudder season started off with the best intentions: our team of Abe, Denise, Sally, Kathie, Tim, and me would be augmented by a few new faces (though we would miss seeing some of the gang from last year). Well, this thing called life just insists on happening. First, Tim gets consumed with preparing for his impending move to the East Coast, then Sally has surgery and a longer than anticipated recovery time, and then Abe also had something come up and wouldn’t be able to participate. No matter, it would still be a blast with Denise, Kathie, our good friend Jess (who you may remember from Ragnar to Uranus), and me.
Then, Friday night before Mudder weekend, RAIN. Not just rain, but WIND. The location just outside of Hudson, WI was buffeted by 90 mile-per-hour winds, and subjected to insane quantities of rain. There was flooding on the course; tents and other structures were blown all over the place, culminating in the Saturday event being cancelled. Jess was planning on volunteering Saturday and running Sunday with her volunteer discount (if you’re put off by the price of Tough Mudder, you’re not alone, but you can run for next to nothing by volunteering for a 12-hour shift). Well, Saturday volunteering was, quite literally, a wash-out, and when she looked at just purchasing a ticket to run, it was up to $220. And, thus, Jess’ Tough Mudder dreams were dashed until next year. Denise bowed out, too, in the face of potentially more than double attendance at Sunday’s event.
And then there were two. I might not run a Tough Mudder alone, but if I have even one friend willing to go with me, I’m in. 100%. Always. Thank heavens for Kathie.
When we got to Game Unlimited (where the Twin Cities Mudder is held), it was definitely busier than usual, but nothing outrageous. We zipped through registration, wrote our numbers on an arm and a leg each, and then stood in line for the Mudder Legion check-in. That one took a while. After loading up on wristbands, we got a locker (one final wrist band; my total ended up at 5), and headed over to the start. On the way in, some nice brand ambassadors gave us a sports drink. I don’t remember what it was called, but it was very soon clear why they needed to give it away: as Kathie said, it tasted like medicine.
After some “warm-ups”, the traditional loud-speaker national anthem, and the Mudder Pledge (don’t ask, it won’t make sense if you’ve never done one), we were off. This year there were a TON of obstacles. I won’t go into descriptions of each and every one because you have things to do that aren’t reading this blog, but here are a few of our favorites:
Mud Mile was different this year! The Tough Mudder
sadists obstacle creators made the hills higher and split it up with approximately a 1/3 mile run in the middle. This is one of those obstacles that looks innocuous, but you really need to watch out for. A number of people were jumping off the top of the mounds into the 2 feet or so of muddy water below. One woman broke her leg doing this. The rule with Tough Mudder is: just doing it is a stupid risk, don’t exacerbate that by not being careful on the course.
We do a lot of partner carries in our workouts. If we ever stop being deadbeats and start posting our workouts again, you’ll really get the full scope of how much time we spend hauling each other around. As such, Kathie and I pretty much killed this. Plus, I had to include it since it’s the only obstacle where we got an official photo taken.
Skid Marked (replacing something that’s name I can’t remember)
I don’t remember what this was called last year, but I guarantee the walls were closer to 6 feet than 9 feet. This was HARD with help, and nearly impossible to do alone. The best part of a Mudder, though, is everyone is part of your team. Kathie and I were hoisted over the walls by some big burly dudes, and we did some hoisting (also of big burly dudes; there are quite a lot of them around a Mudder course). My personal rule on a teamwork obstacle, is help at least one other person. It’s part of the fun.
Mostly this one is for me. Last year, I made it all the way across Funky Monkey, and I was freaking thrilled. This year I made it all the way across, too and it was much, much harder. They added a trapeze. And a pipe. This sucker ended up being a bear on both grip and upper body strength. I was beat after words, and we sort of half jogged for about 200 meters before I had the energy to jump up and down and whoop at the top of my lungs.
King of the Swingers (replacing High Dive)
And here we get to what was easily our favorite obstacle of the day. I kind of wanted to go back and do it over and over. We were both nervous that jumping for the trapeze would be difficult, but it wasn’t. And swinging out over the muddy water below holding on to a tiny piece of metal was nothing short of exhilarating. Just writing about it, I want to go again. And again. And again. Neither of us was able to ring the bell, but that’s a pretty minor consideration when you take in the scope of this joy ride.
In the end, we took it pretty easy. Kathie was deep into Ragnar training, and I was just starting my powerlifting peak cycle, so neither of us were into pushing too hard. We walked a lot, especially as we tired out toward the end, and took our sweet time about doing everything. But, as Tough Mudder is quick to remind everyone approximately every five minutes, a Mudder isn’t a race; it’s not about who finishes the fastest or who does the best, but having a great time and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Even just a little. Oh, and enjoying the hell out of the ride.