Monday, May 20, 2013

Chicago Tough Mudder

I was just happy it was over.

It's two days after the event and I'm still wearing my orange headband. I might wear it all week as the Tough Mudder was the hardest thing I've ever done and I feel that this is something I truly earned. I was going to wait another day or two to write up a post but decided to do it while fresh in my mind.

We signed up for this back in August, bunch of men and women coming up on middle age, deciding to take a test and see where we stand. At that point I had been working out consistently and was planning on running my first 10K that fall. When I looked at the site I thought it was crazy but why not. Time to work toward something and make all this fitness pay off.

Since that time I've run a couple of 10Ks and a 10-miler and have a long run of more than 11 miles. I work out six days a week, boot camp three days and running 15+ miles a week and feel that I'm in the best shape of my adult life -- even though I could still stand to lose another 20-pounds. I also decided to run the marathon this fall, but that's a whole other challenge to come.

But so far, the Tough Mudder was the hardest thing I've ever physically done in my life. Even with all the running and strength training it tested every aspect of my fitness. I finished, it wasn't pretty, but it's done. And I won't be doing a Tough Mudder again. I won't rule out a Warrior Dash or a shorter obstacle course race but nothing of that magnitude again.

The Tough Mudder was a struggle for me almost from the start. My energy level wasn't where I wanted it to be for the entire event. I don't know if it was the later start time, the heat or that I didn't eat/drink enough but I struggled.

Around mile six my calves start cramping, not debilitating but enough to where I had to stop running and walk. At the aid station I got some salt and drank some salt water along with four or five additional cups of water and stretched. It didn't help right away but eventually it kicked in and I stopped cramping and could run more than a couple of minutes without stopping.

The Brooks True Grits after. 
If I had the months back to train again I would do some things differently. The biggest thing is trail running. Everyone says it's different from being a road runner and I believed them, but I have a while new found respect. Your calves get worked a whole lot more and it was a lot harder then road running. I would have added hills training too.

I should have done more core work, more planks, v-ups, oblique crunches. My core is week and I need to fix that. And of course tried to build up more upper body strength. Nothing makes you feel as weak as a kitten as when you go for that second monkey bar and fall right into the water.

There are also things that you just can't prepare for, such as the mile long stretch of mud that went to your ankle. Each step was like stepping into a think stew and just hoping your shoe didn't get sucked off. Also with each step you didn't know where your foot would go when planted. Would it stay or go left, right, forward or behind? It was like being on a mile long ice rink but you were sinking in past your ankle before figuring out where you would go. The best thing I did was buy trail running shoes. They were light and they drained really well and helped me get through the day.

But now it's on to the next challenge of the half marathon in July and the full in October. I have never looked forward to running on asphalt so much in my life.

While it's fresh in my mind I figure I could break the Mudder down obstacle by obstacle.
  1. Artic Enema: A dumpster filled with ice water where you have to go full under a barbed wire separator in the middle. I didn't think this was going to be bad. I was wrong. I decided to jump in far enough in and go right under. What I didn't realize is that once you hit the water it would feel like the wind got knocked out of you. I came back up gasping for air and a little traumatized. 
  2. Kiss of Mud: Army crawl under barbed wire. Quite possibly one of the easiest obstacles all day. 
  3. Electric Eel: Army crawl under barbed wire with electrified wires hanging down in water. The goal for this one was to move quick. I got zapped a couple of times but it was pretty minor, all told, not bad. 
  4. Glory Blades: 10-foot high Berlin walls that were at a slight angle. Got through this one with a little help from my friends. 
  5. Trench Warfare: Crawl through pitch black trenches that take a couple of turns and come out the other end. Again, pretty easy. 
  6. Walk the Plank: Jump off a 15-foot high platform into water. We waiting a half hour to do this one. It was interesting seeing how many people got up there and freaked out. Dont' get me wrong, I got up there and looked down and asked myself "What the F&^( are you doing?" and then I jumped. Can't think about it too much, just do it. 
  7. Log Jammer: Log fences set up and you have to climb up and under. Pretty easy. 
  8. Wounded Warrior Carry: We had some issues with this one because some of us are larger guys. One of my teammates carried me a bit and I carried another of the teammates a bit. 
  9. Hold Your Wood: At first we thought three of us would carry this one log that was for three guys. One of the guys decided to carry his own but instead of taking another log we stuck with the one we had. Needless to say we made this harder on ourselves than we needed to. 
  10. Ladder to Hell: Bunch of boards nailed together that you had to climb up, probably about 20 feet. Real chance to hurt yourself on this one. Didn't help that when I got to the second rung my foot slipped on some mud and made me nervous. But got up and over without and further issues. 
  11. Hanging Tough: Rings suspended over water and you need to move from one to another. I made it to the third ring before getting wet. 
  12. Fire Walker: Jump over a small fire pit into some water. Pretty simple. 
  13. Dong Dangler: Use a rope to traverse a small lake. This one would have been difficult if there was a chance to stay dry. There wasn't, one way or another you were getting wet so I enjoyed using the rope to guide me across. Pretty easy. 
  14. Berlin Walls: Propel you and your team mates over 14-foot walls. At this point we're about eight miles in to the event and just gotten through the mud swamp awfulness that I described above. I wasn't feeling great this entire event so when we got here I bailed. I helped my team mates get over but I wasn't feeling that I had the juice to get over and land safely. I feel a little bad for not trying but I'm also walking around uninjured now. 
  15. Mud Mile: Trenches of mud and muddy water. This is the one obstacle that out late start time might have helped us with because they were so worn down it was pretty easy to get over by the time we were done. 
  16. Dirty Ballerina: Jump over four-foot trenches of water. The water in these trenches was most foul looking. I made it over four without any problems but on the last one my knee popped and I had to walk around the last couple. Manipulated my knee and was fine after. 
  17. Underwater Tunnels: Small lake with barrels and barbed wire that you had to swim under. The cool water felt good, not bad. 
  18. Twinkle Toes: Traverse a beam over ice water. Made it about four steps on before I got wet. 
  19. Boa Constrictor: Go down a pipe into muddy water and then work your way up another pipe. This is where I knew I was done. Going down was easy but coming back up took every ounce of strength. Got through it again, thanks to my teammates. 
  20. Funky Monkey: Monkey bars suspended over ice water. Again, my tank was just about empty I grabbed to first one, went for the second and got wet. 
  21. Everest: Half pipe that you run up and have someone grab you and pull you up. This one scared the crap out of me from the start and with nothing in the tank I am sad to say I skipped it. I just couldn't see it happening. 
  22. Electroshock Therapy: Electrified wires hanging down that you have to run through. I had a plan for this one, it didn't work out too well. I got about half way in when I slipped on some mud and then I was shocked in the head. I may have blacked out for a second, I'm not sure. 
And then it was Dos Equis time. Seriously, this is a tough event, they are not fooling around. We saw a lot of people go down with twisted limbs and cramping.

I'm glad I did it but am happier that I'm walking around feeling good two days later. My legs feel good, my upper body is still a bit sore but I'll survive. I did boot camp this morning and am contemplating my running this week. I was planning to take a couple of days off. Maybe instead I'll just do some shorter, easier runs.
Members of The Mission after. 


  1. Great post! I love that you remembered all the obstacles; I did a 7k Spartan Race once and could barely remember what we had gone over/under/through. Glad you are uninjured and good on you for getting back to boot camp and running already.

  2. Thanks! I did cheat and used the list of obstacles from the event but had a fairly good recollection of how I felt with all of them.

  3. Awesome! I can't wait to hear some stories in person.