One of my goals for this year was to try some new events that I’d never done before, so when a couple of my friends were interested in doing Tough Mudder, I was ready to sign up right away. I had never done an obstacle course event, so this was the perfect new life experience to mix things up.
Tough Mudder Ohio was held on May 7th & 8th in Lexington near Mansfield on and around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Team Quickdirt was made up of 9 guys from the northern suburbs of Columbus – friends and friends of friends …of all different athletic levels. The Tough Mudder is not a race and is more about overcoming challenges and teamwork. The course was about 10 miles long with 15+ obstacles and took us about 3 hours. I’ve done plenty of running and biking, so I wasn’t worried about any of the cardio or endurance aspects of the event. I was, however, worried about some of the obstacles that required upper-body strength like going over walls and monkey bars. I added push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups to my regular routine to help prepare.
We were one of the first groups of the day. We had an 8:30 start time, but actually ended up in the 8:15 group. I was happy about the early start, but I feel like it’s easier first thing in the day before some of the obstacles get really muddy and slippery.
Based on my experience, here is what I would recommend taking with you for a fun and enjoyable Tough Mudder. Click on the links for prices and reviews.
- Under Armour Compression Gear – having tight clothes makes running and climbing easier and more comfortable once you get wet and muddy. I was too cold, but that’s because I didn’t have the right level of clothing on. I should have had a long sleeve compression shirt and tights. Black is the best color, but outrageous outfits are encouraged as part of the festive atmosphere of the event. Use layers and be prepared for the cold. You can always strip layers off.
- Weight-lifting gloves – I didn’t have them, but several of my teammates did and they seemed to help on some of the obstacles.
- Non-cotton socks – Your feet will be so wet. You want something that’s going to drain the water quickly. These cool-looking black socks from Under Armour look like they would be perfect.
- Old running shoes – your shoes will be abused. I wore the Asics GT-2000 running shoes and they were great. If you need to buy a good pair of shoes, then a dark pair of these would be perfect. They have tons of colors.
- Olympus Tough Camera – I use this camera in my mountain bike races and anywhere that I think my equipment might get abused. I highly recommend it. That’s how I got all the cool photos from Tough Mudder Ohio. This camera went through the mud and underwater and came out unscathed. I threw it to my teammates without worrying about it breaking. If you are worried about preserving the memories of the event, then I think this is a must-have for the group.
- Garmin Forerunner 220 or Garmin Forerunner 660 – These GPS running watches aren’t completely necessary for doing Tough Mudder, but I found it useful to be able to track my mileage and watch my heart rate. It was also fun to look at the data after the event and see how our performance was. They are waterproof enough for the limited amount of submersion that happens at Tough Mudder, but should not be used as swimming watches.
- Garmin Heart Rate Monitor Strap – to go with the watch.
We got our stuff, now it’s time to be tough
There is about 1.5 miles of running before the first obstacle, I imagine this is to spread the group out to prevent a traffic jam. We started with a jog (12-min miles) through the woods which contains some logs and streams to jump over and a steep hill that would have been really hard to get up if it had been muddier. I imagine that it probably got harder as the day went along.
The first obstacle was called Skidmarked and involved helping each other climb over a slanted wall. It is definitely possible for some of the stronger Mudders to get over this, but for most folks teamwork was necessary to get across.
We then went through two obstacles that force you to crawl through the dirt and used a rope to climb over another wall.
Our fifth obstacle of the day, King of the Swingers, was one of the most memorable and fun. Mudders climb to the top of a tall platform and use a bar to swing out over water. Just as you reach the apex of your swing you are supposed to let go and ring a bell before plummeting into the pool below. About two thirds of our group was able to hit the bell. My problem was that I hit the bell, but I forgot to let go of the bar (or maybe fear wouldn’t allow me to let go). I started swinging back towards the platform and had a moment of panic. What happened if I flew back into the platform? Luckily, I let go in time and fell safely into the water, but I definitely freaked myself out.
At this point, you could start to see the running wearing down a few people in the group who hadn’t trained as much before the event. You don’t have to be ready to run the Boston Marathon, but I do think that some running workouts would help make this event more enjoyable. Tough Mudder recommends that you should be able to run 5 miles without stopping to prepare for the big day. I had done a 12-miler before the event, so I wasn’t worried about finishing. For me, the pace was conversational and fun. I was able to stop and take photos and then catch back up to the group pretty easily.
We then crawled through some mud under barbed wire and helped each other over another series of walls.
It should be noted that any obstacles that you don’t feel comfortable with can be bypassed. My goal for the day was to attempt, and hopefully complete, every obstacle.
Our 8th challenge of the day, Funky Monkey 2.0, would be the one that broke my streak of accomplishment. This was probably the hardest obstacle to complete, only about a third of our group successfully got to the other side. I, unfortunately, probably made it the shortest distance. I had hurt my shoulder mountain biking about 6-8 weeks prior to the Tough Mudder. Although, my arm feels great most of the time, the one activity that makes it hurt is hanging. This obstacle involves climbing monkey bars, to a swinging steel handle and then shimmying along a steel pipe to a platform on the other side of a big pool of water. I made it about 3 bars in and the pain in my shoulder became unbearable. I couldn’t get the rocking motion going that makes doing monkey bars easier. I splashed into a green pool of broken dreams. EPIC FAIL. My perfect mudder was now ruined. Maybe next year?
That’s okay though. I was still having a ton of fun challenging myself with some really cool guys.
We then carried some logs over and through some obstacles. I managed to get paired up with the other guy, Tim Petska, who had shoulder problems on Funky Monkey 2.0. We were a pretty pathetic pair trying to move that log around. Luckily, my shoulder wasn’t as bad as his and I was able to do most of the heavy lifting.
We waded through some muddy water where you couldn’t see the bottom and the depth kept changing suddenly. Very fun.
By this time I was having problems with getting chilled. The weather was in the 60’s, so I figured I didn’t need to wear much since we were going to be getting a good workout. I had a tight shirt and shorts on, but nothing for extra warmth. I’m accustomed to mountain bike races where my heart rate is pinned to the wall and my body is giving off so much heat that I can race in next to nothing. But, when we got to the obstacles my heart rate would drop, so I wasn’t putting out as much warmth as I expected. Every time we ended up getting wet, it was sucking massive amounts of heat from my body. I hadn’t planned on that. I was under-dressed and somewhere around this point I started to realize that.
We climbed another wall using pegs and footholds. If you used your leg strength it wasn’t too hard, but if you tried to power your way up with your arms it was nearly impossible.
Then we hit another one of my favorites, the Block Ness Monster, which I believe is a new obstacle for 2016. Once again the action occurs in muddy water, which didn’t feel good on my cold skin. The goal is to climb over a series of large rotating blocks that move based on the shifting strength and body-weight of the Mudders. This truly is a group event, where everyone was helping each other out. First you would push the block to help people in front of you get over. Then, you would grab the block and let it carry you while others pushed. Finally, you turned around and pulled to help the people behind you. I loved the camaraderie involved in this event.
This was followed up with Everest 2.0, which is another event where teamwork was important. Mudders had to run as fast as they could up a half pipe, while other Mudders who had already made it waited to try and grab onto their arms to pull them up. Once up, a lot of people turned around and tried to help others. We had one guy on our team with immense arm strength, Kevin Kling, who probably pulled up half our team. On my first attempt, I missed the hands that were trying to grab me and I slid back down the half pipe in a sudden and humiliating fashion. I was able to make it on my second attempt with the help of my teammates. Thanks guys!
We then carried each other piggy-back style on our backs.
By this time I was shivering. I was beyond cold and worried that if I got much worse I might get hypothermia, which seems weird on a 60-degree day. Up next, we had to do Arctic Enema 2.0, which was a highly-anticipated ice bath. I never doubted whether I would go for it, but I did wonder how my body would react to the freezing temperatures. Mudders slide down a ramp and have to go completely under water to come out on the other side. The jolt of cold water was a shock to the system. I quickly shot up out of the water and hopped a wall into another bath of ice on the way to finish. I was glad I did it, but I was cold and miserable.
We had four more obstacles and I didn’t know what was coming up. How much more water could I endure? My hands were shaking and my body felt like it was starting to break down.
Up next, Mud Mile 2.0, which involved climbing over mounds of mud which were separated by pools of water. More water… Ugghhh. I thought this was one of the coolest obstacles though. Despite my personal discomfort, this is what Tough Mudder is all about. Mudders are wet and dirty and need to work with each other to climb over the mounds. Once you get up, you turn around and help the person behind you who helped push you.
Cage Crawl involves floating through a pool of water under a chain link fence. For some people this would induce claustrophobia and a sense of drowning, but except for the cold water, I found it to be a nice relaxing float.
2 obstacles left! We’re going to make it!
Pyramid Scheme forces Mudders to build a human pyramid to climb a slippery ramp. This is a great teamwork event! Loved it. (Almost) no water. Even better!
The final challenge was one that I had been anticipating for months. Electroshock Therapy involves running through hundreds of dangling wires that have electrically charged tips that are waiting to shock you when you run into them. I’ve been shocked at least a dozen times working on electrical projects around the house, so I thought this was something that I could handle. By this point, my cold body was worn down and I didn’t have much left to give. I was really looking forward to the refreshing beer that awaited me on the other side of the obstacle. My friends had all run through and I was the last one.
I covered my face with my hands and reluctantly started running through. ZAP! I fell to my knees. Woah! I didn’t expect it to be so hard. The electrical shock took me out. I wasn’t even a 3rd of the way through. I quivered on my knees in the mud wondering whether I could do it. My supportive friends were jeering for me on the other side. Made me feel like a real wimp. I rose to my knees to keep going. ZAP! I stumbled to my knees but my weary carcass kept moving forward. ZAP! My whole body lurched. Must… Keep… Moving… ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! I’m done!
My first Tough Mudder was in the books. We all hugged and watched the Legionaires in our group finish their final obstacle, Frequent Flyer’s Club, which involves jumping off a high platform into an inflatable.
Beer time. It was time to exchange war stories over a tasty cup of Shock Top. That beer tasted so delicious.
I felt horrible though. I didn’t wash off because I didn’t want to get wet again. I immediately took every piece of dry clothing I had and layered up. It took me at least an hour to get warm again. But even though the challenge had brought me to my knees in the end, I was proud that I had finished. My whole group was happy with the experience. I didn’t hear a negative review from anyone despite the abrasions on our skin and our bruised egos. We are already planning our next one!
Hope to see you there.
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