Toughest Event on the Planet?
I don’t know about that, but Tough Mudder’s 10 miles of water, mud, mountain, obstacles, and electrical shocks was definitely physically and mentally exhausting.
I can’t wait to do another one.
Five months ago, I didn’t even know Tough Mudder existed. After receiving a discount coupon in my email for a local 5k (the absolutely terribly organized “Mudfactor”), I trained for two weeks and had a great time. From that point I started looking up mudruns and stumbled upon Tough Mudder. Reports of its difficulty varied: a coworker told me about someone who was peeing brown afterwards. Online reports ranged from “not too difficult” to “life changing” to “most insane thing I’ve ever done.” Some guy even said he shared a bond with his fellow mudders that he “didn’t even share with his wife.” What the heck happens to people when they run a Tough Mudder?
I couldn’t wait to test myself. Would Tough Mudder leave me peeing mud?
No doubt about it, the course at Snow Valley was brutal. Just getting to the starting line requires scaling a 7 foot wall into an enclosure with a motivational speaker who honors the military and wounded warriors (the main charity supported by this event), and gets each wave pumped up with chants and an awesome choral rendition of the National Anthem. Someone yells GO, people start running, and you’re sucking dust in the first thirty seconds.
The obstacles weren’t too bad, but the hills in between were nuts (enjoy the first two minutes of jogging, because the first hill is less than a quarter mile out) . There had to be at least 10 ridiculously steep climbs, and two of them were LONG. If you ski or snowboard, picture a typical black diamond run, and imagine trudging to the top of that sucker. Ten times. After the first five of these beasts, you’d jog along a flat stretch, thinking that the worst was behind you. It had to be. There’s no possible way you can climb another–
Then turn a corner, face another hill, suck some wind and start trudging your way to the top.
People talk about how mentally demanding this challenge is, and I say it’s because of the hills and the fact that just when you think you’re done, you get hit with another.
If you’re in good shape, completing the course is not overly difficult, and that’s what makes this thing such a big draw for so many different people. Tough Mudder emphasizes teamwork and camaraderie over individual time; it’s not a race, and it’s not timed. Now I’m a competitive sonofagun who created a way to keep score in the paddle ball game at the beach (with an entire set of rules to boot), but even I was able to let go and enjoy the challenge and camaraderie. It was pretty cool to see random strangers helping eachother out all over the course, and screaming, laughing, and high-fiving after obstacles. Short of bad cramping or injury, finishing the course is more about mental grit and determination than any exceptional strength or athletic ability. I’d go so far as to say the better shape you are in, the less mental fortitude you need to finish.
How Tough Are the Obstacles?
If you have decent total body strength, none of the obstacles were particularly difficult. Submerge yourself in ice water, climb over 6-9 foot walls, crawl through tunnels, pipes, and under barbed wire. Swing on some rings, cross monkey bars, and leap off a dock into a pond. The swim was a piece of cake, but I heard it had been shortened because too many people cramped up in the past.
Everest, the quarter pipe obstacle you’ll see on any Tough Mudder video, was fun but not as tough they make it look. Maybe it’s because they didn’t grease down the surface, but many people I saw were nailing it on the first try.
Electrical obstacles were a different story. I don’t like being shocked. I don’t even like the IDEA of being shocked. So I was dang nervous on the Electric Eel and Electroshock Therapy. Electric Eel had you army-crawling through mud and water with barbed wire overhead and charged wires dangling on all sides. I got zapped four or five times, and the last one at the end made me jerk my head up into a 2X4. The rush at the end was worth it. : )
Electroshock Therapy…well, watch the first guy in the video below, and see for yourself. I come running by at the end, and I only got hit twice.
The average Tough Mudder completion time is about 3 hours, and that was my goal. This one took me about four hours and fifteen. I went steady the first five miles, and then I aired it out for the last five. We were on the course for over three hours at 5 miles (those hills!), but I managed the last five in less than 45 minutes. Most of it was downhill though, and even if I went full speed for the entire course, I don’t see myself finishing this one in less than three and a half. The hills were just two much. One of the ladies on our team had run a Tough Mudder in Temecula that was 2 miles longer, but she said it was a ton easier.
Crossing the finish line felt great, as I blasted my way through the forest of electrical wires. I got nailed pretty good on the left leg and foot, but I kept my feet and stumbled my way to claiming the orange headband and my Dos XX. All they needed was The Most Interesting Man in the World, and the day would have been perfect.
From start to finish, my first Tough Mudder made for an amazing day. (Except for the nightmarish bus situation back down the hill. We caught the last bus from the top, and the rest of those waiting were stranded waiting or had to have friends drive up from down the mountain. Check out this story and see why.) “Toughest Event on the planet” is an exaggeration, but Tough Mudder definitely tests endurance, strength, and mental toughness.
It left me smiling ear to ear, and (thankfully) peeing a nice pale yellow.