On Saturday, I officially earned my orange headband and became a Tough Mudder. A year ago, my crazy friends Dave and Jessi convinced me that the 2012 NorCal Tough Mudder in Lake Tahoe was somehow a great idea – and I believed them!
I’m so glad I believed them.
Our team consisted of eight of us: Me, Ryan, Chris (my brother), Jessy (a long-time friend), Tara, Gustavo, and John (all three are friends of Jessi’s fom the gym), and of course Dave. Unfortunately, Jessi and her husband Jason weren’t actually able to get tickets to the event — so our year-long trainer wasn’t able to do it with us. *sadface* But she and Jason, along with John’s girlfriend Lucy, were there to cheer us on!
This is our whole team. Left to right: Gustavo, me (hiding, apparently), Ryan, Tara, Chris, Jessy, Dave, and John. My brother and Jessy rocked some Mudder Mohawks!
Tough Mudder Gear
We woke up bright and early that morning, and all dressed as if we were getting ready for the Spandex Olympics. Here was my gear:
- Avia sports top (with built-in sports bra)
- Under Armor Warm Gear long-sleeve compression shirt
- Compression pants (from Old Navy, of all places)
- Tall non-cotton socks
- My regular Asics running shoes
- Fingerless bike gloves
- Columbia Omni-Heat beanie
If I do the TM again in similar conditions (we’ll see…), the only change I would make is to wear Under Armor Cold Gear instead of Warm Gear. Being cold was one of the hardest parts of the race for me. I would have also carried Chapstick. Even muddy Chapstick would have been better than licking my dry lips for 11 miles.
We got our faces marked up, chowed down on some power-food, and got ready to go!
I think the easiest way to do this review is to go obstacle by obstacle! Here’s what we tackled over the course of a little over 11 miles and an elevation change of 2,627 feet. The weather was probably 50 – 70 degrees during the day, but the sun was shining for most of it (blessed, glorious sun!!).
Tough Mudder Obstacles and Course
The TM started off with an obstacle that wasn’t an obstacle: getting over a 6′ wall to get to the starting line. Not too tough, but I shook a little going over (nerves, fear of falling, etc.). Made me immediately question my sanity. Then there was a rousing speech and a bunch of hoo-YAHs from the wise-crackin’ Tough Mudder emcee, who had us all sing the National Anthem because we had veterans in our group and vets get to sing. It was pretty awesome. Then at 9:00 a.m. we were off!
Up hill, up hill, up hill…
Kiss of Mud #1 (Crawl through the mud under barbed wire): This was more like the Kiss of Dirt — the water had really soaked into the ground and it wasn’t really muddy. The barbed wire made it impossible crawl like a normal child, so we had to army crawl all the way through. Not too tough, but the rough, dry ground made for some bruised knees and elbows.
Up hill, up hill, up hill…
Walk the Plank (Jump off a 15′ platform into some icy water and swim to shore): There wasn’t a line to jump, so I just climbed to the top and jumped right in without thinking about it. Fifteen feet is farther than you might think — I was glad I didn’t think about it, or I might have psyched myself out of it. The water was COLD and knocked all the air out of me. My internal dialogue went something like this: “@#$% COLD. Cori, you are making some weird noises, girl. You got to BREATHE. And SWIM. Are you breathing? @#$% this is COLD.” I got to the edge fairly quickly, but it was hard to swim with all my muscles frozen.
Aid station #1: Water!
Hold Your Wood (Grab a piece of wood/log and walk around a big loop, and drop it off where you started): This wasn’t too hard. I picked an OK-sized log and carried it on my hip like a baby. Carrying it up on my shoulder like most everyone else just made me realize how bony my shoulders are.
Up hill, up hill, up hill…
Arctic Enema (Jump into a Dumpster of ice and dye-filled water, and swim under a partition to the other side): This was one of the ones I was looking forward to least, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected. The water from Walk the Plank was really cold, so the shock wasn’t too bad (it was still @#$% COLD). I jumped in, got under the partition, and popped up on the other side with an entire-body brain freeze. I didn’t realize that most of the ice had been shoved to the second half of the Dumpster, so it was really hard to push through it to the end and get out. We were JAZZED after this one — it was, by far, one of the most energizing obstacles of the day.
Up hill, up hill, up hill…
Hangin’ Tough (Swing across hanging rings over water to get to the other side): Bah! I fell in right away. This will become a theme for events involving upper-arm strength. Once again, I was wet. And cold. About half our team made it across, the other half took a dip.
We met Jessi, Jason, and Lucy at one of the spectator spots and they refueled us with water and an energy bar. I also had a gel here. Felt good and hydrated. Just cold.
Boa Constrictor (Crawl through corrugated tubes downhill, through a trough of water, and back up tubes on the other side): This one was fairly easy — the water never got deep enough that I had to dip my head under (just half my face). I was able to crawl on my hands and knees, though I think some taller people had to shimmy through more like an army crawl. Not too difficult.
Aid station #2: Water! Bananas!
Kiss of Mud #2 (Crawl through the mud under barbed wire): This was similar to the Kiss of Mud #1, except it was muddier. It was harder to army crawl, since it was slick, so I ended up basically digging my hands in and pulling with my arms, almost like push-ups. While my upper arm strength isn’t great for hanging obstacles, I can do A LOT of push-ups, so those muscles came in handy here.
Up hill, up hill, up hill…Up hill, up hill, up hill…Up hill, up hill, up hill… Seriously, this was the longest climb, and even though it wasn’t technically an obstacle, I think it’s one of the things that gave the most people trouble. People were stopping to rest all over the place — it was pretty brutal. We stopped quite a bit, and it’s at this point my hips started hurting a little.
Berlin Walls #1 (Climb up and over two 10′ walls): I decided the walls were going to be a pass for me. My muscles were shaky from the big climb, and I just didn’t trust myself and my coordination enough to attempt the walls (yet…maybe someday). There was a guy with a broken ankle getting carted off — that pretty much sealed it for me. The rest of my team did great!
Electric Eel (Slide on your belly through water and beware of the live electrical wires dangling overhead): When I got to this one, I thought “a boy definitely invented this!” It seemed beyond stupid. I mean, there’s a reason we don’t take toasters in the bathtub. If one person touches a live wire, the entire group of people in the water gets the shock as the electricity is conducted through the water. Ryan and Chris touched the water right as someone got shocked, so it took them a few moments before they crawled in. Then I touched the water right as someone got shocked (it was like an entire-body THWUMP!!) and it took me even longer to venture in. Thankfully, I made it all the way through without any more shocks, though the anticipation of it was making us all crazy. Crawling out of the water is difficult — your legs automatically raise behind you because of the ledge. Beware of the last-minute shocks! Most of my teammates got shocked on this one on their way through.
Aid station #3: Water! Sharkies!
DOWNHILL! Because Jesus loves me. It was mostly downhill after this. I did quite a bit of running down the hills here, trying to warm up. This may have contributed to my hip pain, but I’m not certain. I just wanted to be WARM again.
Just the Tip (Using just the tips of your toes and your grip, shimmy along two 2x4s attached to a wall over a trough of water — one for your feet, one for your hands. The 2×4 then becomes a 1×4 and you’re really tested!): Man! If this was a 2×4 all the way across I would have owned this. I barely made it onto the 1×4 and my crap grip gave out and I tumbled into the cold water. Only John got all the way across — it was tough. I lost my gloves on this obstacle — they’d been tucked up underneath my shirt. Found another pair of full gloves that someone had abandoned, but I still missed my fingerless pair after that.
Trench Warfare (Crawl through some dark zig-zag trenches underground): No problems with this one. I found the warm, dark earth to be very comforting, like I was a mole. I sort of wanted to take a nap.
Aid station #4: Water! Bananas! Band-aids for blisters!
Berlin Walls #2 (Climb up and over two 12′ walls): If I didn’t attempt the 10′ walls, I wasn’t going to do the 12′ walls. By now, my hips had really started to sing, so I rested while my team tackled the walls. The wait for these was probably 10 minutes. The last wall dropped down into a field of tiny fir trees — it was like landing in a newborn Christmas tree farm. Poky!
Lumberjacked (Jump over a set of logs on their sides set about 5′ off the ground). No problem with this one, but I saw a guy totally eat it and destroy his calf.
Log Jammin’ (Similar to Lumberjacked, but you had to go under a log, over a log, under a log, over a log…): Not too difficult — I liked climbing on the logs (somehow not nearly as scary as the walls). The ground was a little rocky, so you had to watch where you land. This was the only event since Walk the Plank where I was a decent temperature. All that climbing up and down finally got my muscles warm.
Warrior Carry: (Carry a friend 100 yards, then switch!): This was a mystery obstacle. It was sort of weird and we didn’t really know what was going on. Ryan carried me for a bit, then I carried him for, like, 12 steps. Then we kept walking.
Aid station #5: Water! Guns ‘n’ Roses!
Funky Monkey (Monkey bars that gradually go up, then gradually go down): I wasn’t warm for long! Made it about three bars in and splashdown! Cold again. Most of my team made it across, for which I have to give them Mad Props. If I ever do another Tough Mudder, I have got to train for the upper arm stuff more. Find a set of monkey bars at a park and practice until I can do it.
Spider’s Web (Climb up and over a rope net wall): This one actually closed — the cable had stretched and they needed to tighten it.
Mud Mile (Slosh through waist-deep sludge and up and over little hills — it’s slick!): Even though I’m sure my face didn’t show it, I really enjoyed this one. Mostly I was cold and my hips hurt, but I love stuff like this — it’s so fun to get really muddy!
High Steppin’ (Make your way across a series of short wood walls): Really easy, though I was hurting so it wasn’t exactly my favorite.
This is about when my hips pretty much decided they were going to stop working. My hip flexors froze up and every step was basically agony. Lifting my legs to walk forward was nearly impossible, and if I had to go up at all, I wanted to cry. Of all the physical problems I thought I might encounter, my hips were not even on my radar. Calves? Yep! Core where I broke two ribs? Sure! Blisters! Uh-huh! But those were just fine. My hips made the last mile and a half torture. By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain, I was beyond done. But there were still two obstacles before the finish! We met up with our cheering section, and fueled up a little more.
Everest (Scale the quarter-pipe and get to the top — almost everyone needs someone to help them up!): I knew I couldn’t do it. While I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t attempt the walls, or that I fell in the water on some of the obstacles, I had a really hard time knowing I couldn’t do Everest. Watching my team do it and the incredible teamwork they employed to get everyone up on the quarter-pipe almost made me cry. I wanted it so bad, but there was just no way with the amount of pain I was in. This is, by far, my biggest disappointment for the day, and the #1 reason I want to try another Tough Mudder. I want to OWN Everest.
Electroshock Therapy (Run like a maniac through live wires to the finish line!): Waiting for everyone to finish Everest gave me a chance to rest my hips a little and I decided I wanted to finish the race I had started, hips be damned. Ryan helped me hobble up the little hill to Electroshock Therapy. From there, fear and adrenaline kicked in and after my brother and Jessy ran through, I got up what little strength I had left and ran/hobbled with all my might through the wires (arms out in front of me in a wedge), with Ryan running next to me. I thought I’d made it home free, but I got two little zaps at the end — nothing too bad, but I have little scabs to prove it. It was like being hit with a very tiny whip.
Then my hips DIED and basically fell on a girl who was passing out my killer orange Tough Mudder headband. I was so glad to finish!
Thankfully we made it back to the car quickly and I was able to sit down and rest. Due to various reasons and wait times at obstacles, we weren’t the fastest group (which is FINE! It’s NOT A RACE!). But I think being constantly cold and not moving enough was what did my hips in. Chris and Jessy want to do the TM in Wisconsin next year. I’m thinking about it! Even with all of the difficulties I faced, I know I can do it again and do it better (especially since it will be flatter, guaranteed). We’ll see. I’m trying not to over-plan my life as much right now, so I probably won’t make a decision until next year.
If you’re thinking about doing a Tough Mudder, I say go for it! It’s tough (duh), but it’s such a good reason to train, get in better shape, and conquer fears. We’ve been training together (on and off — nothing too crazy) for more than a year, and I know I’m more fit, strong, and fearless than I was a year ago. Despite having a rough time, I’m so happy I was able to finish, and so very, very proud of my team. It was such a fulfilling experience — to know that I can tackle something like this. Cori-From-Five-Years-Ago never would have dreamed about doing something like this. New Cori is making stuff like this happen all the time. Living my life and loving it!
Except for the sunburn. Definitely should have put on more sunscreen!