Monday, July 1, 2013

Tough Mudder Michigan 2013 Race Report


Despite being sadly under-trained, I went into this past weekend feeling fairly confident about the 12 mile run plus 20-ish obstacles.  The hubby also contributed to the sense of preparedness by hooking us up with tons of energy gels, compression elbow and knee pads (a fantastic choice!), and a team of 12 awesome people.  The Mud Puppies, as we were known, consisted of a group of marines just returning from Afghanistan plus a bunch of first-time Tough Mudders like the hubby and me.  Great attitudes, great helpers, great people!

The hubby trying on his Mud Puppies compression shirt

If you have enjoyed events such as the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, or other mud runs...the Tough Mudder is even better!  This was an absolute blast!

I won't go through every obstacle, but I want to hit a few highlights.

The course started with some longer running stretches to try to spread out the field.  It apparently didn't work too well, because there was a 45-minute wait before the third obstacle - Fire Walker - a leap over fire into a pit of water.  I didn't mind the wait except that it gave us plenty of time to think about the fourth obstacle - the Arctic Enema.  

In the Arctic Enema, you jump into a dumpster filled with water and ice, duck under a wooden obstacle fully submerging in the water, and then get your frozen body to the other end of the dumpster to climb out again.  Coming up from under water was particularly surprising, because you had to wade up through 6 inches of floating ice cubes to reach the top!  My body was so cold when I got out, that every part of me hurt!  Fortunately, it didn't last long, and I quickly warmed back up running.  We had our only serious team injury at this obstacle - strangely enough.  One of the guys dislocated his shoulder when his muscles seized up in the icy water and he grabbed onto something to jerk himself violently out of the water.  Race medics were at the ready to take care of him, but he was out for the rest of the event.  (Our teammate, Laura, took some video under water with her GoPro.  If it turned out, I'll post it here!)

The only obstacle that I did not complete was Walk the Plank - a jump off of a 12-foot high platform into yet another pit of water.  They built the platform with the supports sloping backwards below your feet making for an optical illusion of even greater height.  I'm not a heights fan, so I quickly decided that I would have a more positive race if I skipped the jump this time around.  I'm disappointed that I can't say that I did every obstacle in the race, but I'm happy with my choice.

Me (left) and Laura Schultes Ramon (facing the camera) doing the Hold Your Wood obstacle

Probably the scariest obstacle was the Electric Eel.  In this exercise, you have to army crawl under barbed wire in muddy water through a field of shock wires.  Each shock by itself is annoying but tolerable.  Combine more than one contact at a time, and it starts to get interesting!  Muscles clench and it hurts - if only briefly.  Part of you wants to speed up to get through it faster, but doing so only puts you into contact with more wires!  The hubby, being a big guy, made contact with 4 wires at one time.  He actually blacked out for a quick second!  

The Electric Eel, the high platform, and the Arctic Enema are good examples of how the Tough Mudder is as much a mental challenge as a physical one.  Another example is the Boa Constrictor.  Here, you crawl into a plastic tube that slopes down into water, emerge from the tube under barbed wire, and then crawl into another tube sloping up out of the water.  I didn't struggle with this one much, but if you are afraid of going under water or into tight spaces, it could be scary.  I'm small enough that I was able to crawl up the second tunnel, but the larger folks only had enough room to drag themselves up with their arms.  Boa Constrictor was particularly interesting that day, because we got poured on for about an hour before reaching this obstacle.  The rain made the entire grounds muddy.  But I was also curious whether the water in these tunnels was higher than normal!

The hubby and I after the pouring rain heading into Boa Constrictor

Only one awesome person on our team was able to complete the Funky Monkey obstacle.  It's not that ascending and descending monkey bars are necessarily super hard...I used to be great at them when I was in elementary school.  ;)  But they were greasy and muddy.  Nearly impossible to hold on to.  I felt them with my gloves on and basically just swung out far enough to drop in the water and swim across!

As we approached the last couple miles of the run, some of the most physically exhausting obstacles arrived.  We climbed over the Bale Bonds - a series of large hay bales.  We formed human ladders to climb over two 8-foot Berlin Walls.  Then we again depended on the kindness of strangers to defeat Everest.  This was a half pike that you had to run up and catch the hands of the people waiting to help you at the top.  Once you found traction on the muddy surface, got a hand on the wood at the top, and had the assistance to get a leg over the edge, you could summit Everest!  The hubby took 5 tries to complete it, but he did it!

And finally, to wrap up our Tough Mudder experience, we faced Electroshock Therapy - one last trot through hanging shock wires.  I actually made it through relatively unscathed only taking one good double hit to my left leg.  

Then we reached the glorious reward of a high quality race shirt, an iconic orange head band, and a free beer!  We did it!  What a great time!

Tough Mudders!!!

I must complement the Tough Mudder folks for putting on a great event!  The volunteers were friendly and helpful.  Water was available at many points on the course (though they ran out of Cliff Blocks and did not have any sports drink).  I had such a great time over our 5 hours of crawling, plodding, ducking, climbing, and hanging out with great people that shorter mud runs are going to seem to end too quickly from now on.

Thank you Tough Mudder and our team, the Mud Puppies, for a fantastic day!

Also to note: The hubby came out of the event with no major injuries!  His compression knee pads and the back support that he wore gave him the added joint control that he needed.  Woohoo!

For more photos and video of the Mud Puppies, see my post here.

For the bonus norovirus obstacle, see my post here.  ;)

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