Tough Mudder II
This past Saturday, June 11th 2016, I along with Mike Brown, Stacey Welch, and Zach Garrett went to SPARTA!! Kentucky to complete the Tough Mudder. This was Zach's third, Stacey's first, and my and Mike's second tough mudder.
During my previous mudder experience it was about 40 degrees out, rainy, and generally miserable. I wore shitty shoes (Vibram Five Fingers KSO). This time it was in the 90-100 degree range, dry, and I wore Saucony Peregrine 5 Trail Running Shoes. The change in shoes, I think more than anything else, resulted in a vastly different experience for me. During the prior one my feet were constantly sore and I had zero traction. I was pretty miserable and the shoes were pissing me off. This time, my feet were comfortable, I had pretty good traction, and I was in a much better mental place because of it. I think my improved mental state really helped me with all of the obstacles.
We left Huntington around 6:30 and it was about a 3 hour drive to SPARTA!!. Once there we parked ($20 parking fee was bull) and then walked about a mile to the event start area. It was already pretty damn hot out and after storing our bag ($5 fee) we waited in the holding area for about an hour before the starting gun went off. As you might be able to tell I wasn't a big fan of the fees. Especially considering the dearth of water stations during the first half of the course - and the basic absence of food for the first three quarters. That's all I'm going to say about it but, for the amount of money they charge for this event I was disappointed in the level of support they offer participants during the event.
It was already really hot and blazingly sunny when we started. I had applied a thick coating of sunscreen twice before getting in line, particularly to the top of my head and nose. By the time we got to the final holding pen I borrowed a staff members sunscreen to re-apply. Beyond the running and obstacles - sun burn prevention was the theme of the day for me. Once we started we were almost immediately introduced to a surprise obstacle.
Here is a page full of descriptions of the various obstacles. Just click on various parts of the image to learn more about each.
The pond was just what it sounds like - a pond of water. We were supposed to swim across it but it was shallow enough where I could walk the whole way. I stayed on my tip toes so my shoes wouldn't get stuck in the mud. It was a nice cool down after the long wait to get started. After that we had to jog a little while before the next obstacle.
Mud Mile 2.0
This is a long (not a mile) swath of muddy hills you have to climb over and slide down. You need to work with others to scale some of them. I was pretty well coated in mud by the end of this one. Unfortunately I felt like my shorts were full of mud as well. It was pretty unpleasant feeling but it didn't cause any trouble so I was glad for that. I made sure to tighten my shoe laces before going into this one. It was some thick nasty mud. Here is a video from another event
This is a huge rope net you have to crawl under. It starts on flat ground then goes uphill. WHen you on the lower part you need to crawl on hands and knees but when going uphill a bear crawl is a better way to go. It was a little tiring but overall a pretty easy obstacle. Here is a video from a different location.
Another easy obstacle. It's a pile of hay bales you have to climb over. I just ran at it, planted a foot and sort of ran up the pile and climbed over the top. Probably helped to be a little taller. I didn't even need my hands. It took about 3 seconds. Here is a video from a different location.
This is a backwards leaning wall that you just have to climb over. It's kind of tall and you can't use your feet much, You can use the support boards in the middle if you want. It's about a ten foot wall but I don't think the top was ten feet above ground. Someone helped me get my leg over the top of the wall and I think it was here that I bashed up my right bicep a little. It left a nice bruise. Here's a video from folks in Arizona. I was actually pretty surprised at how well I did on these walls. I remember having more trouble last time - though I think it was called Glory Blades before.
A while after this was the first water station.
Kiss of Mud 2.0
This is just a low crawl under some barbed wire. Keep your head down (and turned sideways) or you'll cut your head (I nicked mine a little). Keep your but down too. Mostly this just gets you muddy and isn't particularly difficult. A video from somewhere else.
Throw your buddy on your back and carry him a hundred feet or so. Not too bad. I carried Mike fireman style. At first he was a little low on my back so I had to "shift" him up. I'm sure he didn't enjoy that. It was actually just as bad being carried. Kind of made me nauseous being up there. Mike, about halfway through carrying me decided to run. It felt like we were going to fall the entire time. He didn't though and we "beat" everyone else in the obstacle.
These are some tall, black walls, you just have to climb. Once you're on top you can turn around and help others. I helped a couple younger fit looking guys but then a pretty heavy person approached so I let young guys take over. Wisdom is the better part of valor or something. Here's a vid. Pretty straight forward.
Block Ness Monster
This was a new obstacle to us. Pretty interesting really. There are big rectangluar blocks that you have to spin and ride on to get through a pond. When you're on the block you should shift your weight and pull as you go down. It's probably easier to understand by watching a video. I got to this a bit fast so I helped a lot of people on the first block and my shoulders where burning by the time I rolled over it. I didn't help anyone one the second block; my shoulders were used up. Nobody in this video did the pull as they got off making it harder for everyone on the other side.
Hold Your Wood
Stacy and I partnered for this. You basically carry a big long around a loop; maybe 200 feet? I don't know. It was pretty easy. No video for this one is needed.
This is a pool of muddy water you walk into and you carefull proceed through because, at times, the bottom has pits in it you will fall into. Zach hurt his calf a little on this as it tighted up when he fell and he cramped. This just seemed like an obstacle designed to hurt people. Here's a video.
Funkey Monkey 2.0
This is monkey bars with a twist. The first half is a monkey bar ladder that is angled upward so you have to pull up and swing on each move. Back in 2013 I didn't get to the middle. I lost all momentum early and had to drop into the water below about halfway up. This time I completed the upward ladder. In the old version you then went to a downward ladder. In this one though you transition to a swing with your hands (like a trapese swing) and then switch from that to a railing that swings from pivots left and right. You then do a hand over hand thing to get down the railing. I was almost done with the railing when the guy to the right of me flew off his and went down right in front of me hitting the water below me so I had to stop and make sure I didn't fall off and land on him. I held on for a bit as he swam away and then had to make a decision. Try to finish and possible fall off right over the edge of the landing platform (hurting myself) or just drop into the water then and swim out. I chose to drop and avoid potential injury. I was pretty happy with myself for getting so far. I think I would have finished it without the long pause at the end. Video
Ladder to Hell
This is a big ladder maybe 20 feet tall.. You climb up it, go over it, and climb down it. The line here was long but Mike noticed we could probably climb up the middle between the two lines. As we went to the middle they said it was for expert climbers. I jumped up, climbed, went over easily, and went down. I guess I'm an expert. This was the easiest obstacle of the day for me probably. I'm kind of a bad-ass. Okay, it was a pretty easy ladder. Video Ours was much narrower (only room from three people total) and a bit taller (I think a couple more rungs higher). But you get the idea.
This changed a bit but was the same basic idea. You have to get in a long dumpster full of ice water and fully submerge yourself. In the past you could jump in, then swim under a wall, and go to the end and get out. Now you have to slide in under a cage until submerged, climb over a wall, fall back in, then go to the end and get out. I was not excited about this obstacle and I held on to the cage support for a bit before sliding in. The staff person told me "Sir, you need to let go." I did, I got cold, i flopped over the wall, got colder got to the end and got out. I don't enjoy being cold. This was my least favorite obstacle this time. When we did it last time I as already freezing so I didn't really notice the coldness of the obstacle. This time I did. Video. Unlike the guy in the video I didn't hang out to encourage others.
Another new obstacle to us. On this you walk through a watery muddy trench, then climb a giant whiteboard that is set on an angle. The whiteboard is about 20' long and around the halfway point is a strip of sandpaper you can use for traction. It is impossible to just walk up this wall; you need to use other people to help you get up. At the bottom of the whiteboard is a thing, 1-2" thick strip you can stand on and others can then climb up your body. When I approached a guy had been there on the strip helping people by himself so I offered to take his place so he could move on. I got on the board, he climbed my side and I extended my arms and he used my hands as a platform to get to the texture strip.
Another guy did the same thing then someone else suggested we build a ladder of people and folks would just climb the ladder and go over. So the ladder formed with me as the base. I am not a great base. Two guys, both at least 175 were above me in the ladder then people would climb up the right side of me, use my hand/arm to plant their foot and then climb the next guy and so on.
The first person to try to climb the ladder was Stacy; he's closer to 230. He got near the top but slid back down so had to climb again. I wasn't really thrilled to see him at the bottom again. For about fifteen minutes people climbed our ladder until I announced I wasn't going to help anymore people. My back was getting tight and I had a big cramp in my left ass-cheek. Some little woman tricked me though; she was already on the white board and asked to hold my hand real fast for support. As soon as she grabbed my hand she pulled herself up and climbed the ladder. It was funny but I made it clear to those waiting that nobody else was going to fool me. The ladder then disassembled (first Mike left the top of us, then the other guy) and then I climbed another ladder of people. Once off this I had to stop and stretch out my back; it was super tight. This obstacle took A LOT out of me and really made the rest of the mudder much more difficult for me. Video.. If that dude in the video was the base for 40 minutes he's a bad-ass.
We did something like this before. You basically lay on your back in some muddy water and pull yourself through the obstacle via a chain link fence above you. The water and fence get fairly close together so only your face is not submerged. However, this time it also had pipes pouring dirty water down on you at intervals so you had to close your eyes and hold your breat a couple times. On the previous version you went under tarps a few times I think so you were in darkness. That was gone this time except for a tarp you could hang out under and cool off for a bit if you were a legionnaire (someone doing a mudder for the second or more time). Mike, Zach, and I took advantage of the cool down pool. Video
King of the Swingers
This replaces the "Walk the Plank" obstacle. Basically, you go up on a big tower and have a choice - either jump into the water directly (Walk the Plank) or jump and try to grab a metal bar swing, swing to the end, and try to hit a bell before letting go and dropping into the water way below you and then swimming out. Mike, Zach, and I all tried for the bell. I missed by a foot or so. Zach swung about halfway and thought he could fly but dropped like a stone, and Mike hit the bell. Stacy opted to "Walk the Plank". Video. The swing looked further away that it was when I was standing there thinking about jumping. I wasn't sure I'd be able to grab it but it was pretty easy to get on the swing. The bell was too far away for my poor swinging technique though.
This is a peg board like they had in gym class. You have some big wooden dowels that you put in the holes in the wall. The difference being there are some notches along the side you can put your feet in to help you. If you're a legionnaire they have a special version where you just get one peg instead of the standard two and one straight vertical line of holes. It took me three tries to get a foot into a notch. The first time it just slipped out. The second time I couldn't quite get my foot up. A guy offered to help me but I said, "let me try one more time and then I'll be exhausted and you can help." On the third try I used the peg with my left hand and the foot track with my right, pulled up, and put my right foot in the notch (previously I'd tried to get my left foot set). After getting both feet set I used the peg one more time then realized I could reach the top of the wall with my hand so I threw the peg back to the ground and just pulled myself over. Mike used the empty holes with his other hand instead of the foot track and got over in one try. Zach tried six times before walking around. Stacy got to do the easy two peg option and completed it. It was pretty tough. Video
This was a bit weird but not very hard. You basically had to low crawl under some big bags that were heavy with water. Each bag got a little lower and a little heavier. I just laid down, turned my head to the side, and used my right leg to propel me under all of them. Funnily after getting past the last bag I tried to get up and when I was kneeling my hips got stuck under the structure holding the bags so I had to kind of unstick myself. Video
This was sort of like the mud mile. It's a big muddy pit with a super slick wall of mud you have to climb up to get out. It usually takes teamwork to get out. Somehow I walked right down, through, and out of it. Remember, I'm a bad-ass. Video
This is a huge wall you have to run up - sort of like on American Ninja Warrior - but curved at the top so you need someone to grab your hand at the top to help you over the lip. Two big strong dudes were at the top when I ran and it was like I never stopped running.. They grabbed my hands and I was over the top in stride. I then turned around to help Mike finish and then let the big guys help Zach and Stacy. I did much better on this with the run-up than I did last time - there was no water on it as opposed to the video depiction. Sadly, a lady in front of us fell badly and separated her shoulder. Video
Frequent Flyers Club
There were actually two obstacles here. For newbies to a Tough Mudder the classic "Electric Shock Therapy" waited. Electric Shock Therapy is a big lane of bumps and mud that have wires with 10,000 volts at 0 amps hanging down ready to strike at random. This was the final obstacle for Stacy. He walked around it. When we did this back in 2013 it turned Mike off briefly and knocked the rest of us to the ground because we were stupid and linked arms.
This time around, because we were veterans we had the choice to do the Frequent Flyer Club. In this you climb a tower and then jump out trying to hit a variety of what can best be described as wind chimes. You then fall into a big stuntman balloon. They suggest you land on your ass. When we climbed the tower there was a lady up there who was discovering that she was afraid of heights. She had skipped the King of the Swing because she couldn't swim. She spent quite a while almost jumping. Mike and I got in a different line so we could go while she waffled. Mike went first, hit the third wind chime out and fell down into the bubble landing on his backside as instructed. Then it was my turn. I'll admit I was a little nervous simply because I wasn't sure what the bubble would feel like.
I jumped without hesitation though as I didn't want to be up there waffling with the lady. I hit one of the chimes, I'm not sure which, because after hitting it I looked down and noticed my legs were fully extended and I was going to land like I was standing. It was about 20' down to the bubble. I told my legs to pull up and I tried to lean back a little. I landed on my feet. My legs told the rest of me, "screw you, we're done for the day". The bubble was very cool. It just collapsed and embraced me. It was amazingly gentle. It was harder to get out of the damn thing because it really did embrace you. Eventually I wiggled out and met up with Stacy and Mike. Zach was still in the wrong line waiting behind Ms. Waffle.
Stacy, Mike and I then went to the little end point and got our new headbands, tee-shirts, and other things. Then I went back to see if Zach was ready to jump yet. He had finally switched lines and was about second in line to jump. Ms. Waffle was gone so I asked a volunteer if she'd jumped. While I spoke with her I stopped looking up and, as the lady told me she didn't know about Ms. Waffle, Zach Jumped and I missed it.
I waited while Zach collected his gear and then we wobbled over to the beer tent for our free beer.
I am pretty sure I was on the verge of heat exhaustion at the end. I grabbed my beer and went into a big tent area, took a seat, and slowly drank it. Mike was eager to leave but I would not be rushed. Then we went to the rinse station and tried to clean off the mud some.
After I rinsed I kind of blindly wandered towards the changing tents not really paying attention to where I was going. Fortunately, a lady came out of the flap just as I was about to open it. I had nearly walked into the woman's change tent. While that might have been briefly titillating I imagine the beat down I would have received from all the women would have made it not worth my while. I'm glad that lady saved me from my own stupidity.
I then went and changed and then we walked the apx mile back to our car and headed to Cincinnati.
Stacy at the end claimed he would not do another but he's already changed his tune two days later. I don't know about Zach but I know Mike would do another. I'm undecided but strongly leaning towards no. I don't mind the event but it's really expensive and kind of hard to justify that kind of expense to go run for about 11 miles. The whole weekend between the ticket, gas, hotel, food, shoes, etc. cost between $300-500/person I'd imagine.
Some Final Thoughts
The course was marked as being 10.7 miles. My Garmin measured it as 11.86. Mike's measured 11.5. They also claim the elevation gain is 1468 feet. Garmin says it is 764 feet. Here is my full data dump via Garmin and here is the data sheet from Tough Mudder - scroll to page 2.
The shirt this year was made by Merrell and is pretty damn comfortable. Previously it was made by Under Armour. It's a close battle to determine which is more comfortable though the Merrell head hole is a bit snug for my massive noggin. Overall I'm really happy with both shirts.
The beer this time was a Shock Top. We had three choices. I picked the Belgian White. I didn't really taste my beer in 2013 as I spilled most of it while shivering. I didn't taste this one much either even though I drank it all and slowly. I just wasn't really mentally available.
I felt surprisingly good on Sunday and played in a kickball game Sunday afternoon. I thought walking might be tricky on Sunday. I was glad to find out I was wrong. The whole weekend was pretty good; then I found out about Orlando.