Team Stay Strong: Jen, Steve, Marisol and Jeff
Let me start by saying we really lucked out on the weather. We all thought it was going to be chilly and rainy, but it was a balmy mid 60s with overcast. This was perfect weather for most of our time on the course. We arrived at Moree’s SportsmanPreverse at 6:30 am for our 8:20 am start time. We all arrived hydrated, fed and ready to be Tough Mudders. We easily parked and found our way to the registration area. Once we went through, they inked our foreheads with our number and slapped on the various wrist bands. We then made our way up to the main area, checked our bags, and we were ready! I was impressed with how easy the parking and registration went and how fast we got settled in.
It was good for us that we got there early. We were able to really take the whole experience in and get every thing in line (stretching, last-minute hydration, potty breaks). We enjoyed seeing the other teams arrive, especially those in costumes. Everyone was really friendly at this event. All the volunteers we encountered were also friendly and helpful.
Our goal as a team was just to finish the event as a team plain and simple, and to attempt all the obstacles. We all thought that our time would take around 4 hours. When picking a team, it is very important that all are on the same page with course goals and strategy. Our biggest goal was just to finish the damn thing and not to leave a teammate behind, even if that meant being the last team to finish. We fortunately saw the first group go off, which got us revved up for our own start time. Now before you even can get to the start area, you need to get over a 8 ft wall. These walls were the obstacle that haunted me the most since I signed up. I knew if I could get over this wall with ease, everything else would be cake. I had to get over this mental hurdle to relax. If you are short (like I am), these obstacles seem harder, so build up a lot of upper body strength. With the help of my husband and Steve, we got over it with no big issue. I was surprised the wall wasn’t thicker at the top, so be careful on the going over. Once our start time arrived, we were very pumped up. The MC was amazing. Before you know it we were off!!!
Here is our course map: Tough Mudder Course
1) Braveheart Charge: You basically charge to your first obstacle. It wasn’t to long I would say less than a quarter of a mile. It’s good to get the blood flowing!
2) Arctic Enema: This was an obstacle I was worried about. I didn’t really do anything to prepare other than think, “It’s going to be cold!” I went first and Jeff went behind me. I tried to jump as far as I could. Once you are in you need to get under a barrier to the other side and out. My best advice on this one jump far and get out as fast as you possibly can. The one sensation that got me (and it didn’t register until I got to the other side of the barrier) is that it physically knocks the wind out of you. It felt like I got kicked in the chest. Once I got to the end, it took me two tries and the help of my husband to get out. Again, my height was at disadvantage. I panicked for a split second because I didn’t pull my body up far enough to get out. I thought oh my Gosh if I don’t get out on the next try I will be in serious trouble. Thankfully, I pushed up hard enough that I could get my chest on the ledge and then my hubby made sure I didn’t fall back in. You need to move as fast as you can to get out of there. My skin literally felt like it was burning off for a few moments after, but thankfully none of our muscles cramped up. We were lucky in a sense that our Arctic Enema wasn’t all ice it was a good mix of water and ice. I couldn’t image going under the barrier if it was mostly ice.
3) Kiss the Mud: Thank God this was next! It got you on the ground over warm mud. I did this without any difficulty. I was surprised, honestly I thought the low crawling obstacles were going to wear me out. I guess all the yoga I do really prepared me for these types of obstacles.The trade off of being short is that the crawling obstacles (tunnels and trenches) are much, much easier. My tip for this one: use your arms and drag your legs. Use your feet every now and then to push-off.
4) Spider Web: After negotiating some of the terrain, (they really throw some obstacles on the terrain that aren’t official obstacles), we arrived at the Spider Web. This was another obstacle that had me worried. You have to climb over an 8 foot high cargo net, but there is no tension on lower part. We really saw the Tough Mudder camaraderie for the first time of the day here. When people go up, your fellow Mudders have to put tension on the bottom. When Jen and I went up there were about 8 people on the bottom and more on the sides. I really surprised myself by going up and over with no big issue. Once we were over we relieved some Mudders that had stayed to help, and we held the net for others. Everyone has different goals during this course, but it is really nice when you pay it forward. If someone helps you, help someone else. I think this camaraderie makes this event so different from other challenges.
5) Berlin Walls: This obstacle sat a good 2 miles and change from the previous. Again, we walked and jogged it. Knowing that we got over the starting wall with relative ease, I wasn’t so nervous anymore. It took the assistance of my husband and another kind gentleman to help me get up and over. While on top of the wall, make sure to extend yourself as long as you can get before jumping down. Shimmy down and drop. It does hurt the ankles a bit. There were two sets of walls; a major relief as I expected 4.
6) Hold your Wood: We trekked the terrain for roughly a mile before we got to this obstacle. If this is your first time, I recommend a smaller piece of wood rather than doing a team holding with a long piece. I think mine weighed 10-15 pounds. It was awkward to hold; I had to keep changing positions. Being a mommy really helped in this obstacle. Holding it along my hips was the easiest way, but I rotated it from my shoulders as well. We walked around a pond and at the very end we had to actually wade in the water with the wood. I think the total length we walked was about 1 km. Kettle bell training came in handy here for me. Thank you to my trainer for making me do those over the past few months.
7) Dirty Ballerina: We got lucky on this one. We were in the second wave of the morning so the course wasn’t that torn up yet. I can only imagine this got harder as the day went on. You basically jump over a series of 4 foot-wide trenches. If you miss you land in a trench of muddy water. Don’t over think it, just do it! We all made it over with no issues. Box jumps prepared me for this one.
8) Electric Eel: Again, an event which had me a little nervous. It is similar to Kiss the Mud, but there are live electric wires above you. Some are charged some are not. I’ll be honest, some people went too slow. I tried to get in between the wires, but I did get shocked about 6 times. I got a strong one on my shoulder that left a sting for a little bit. To be clear, it isn’t much stronger than a bad electric shock from static electricity. However, my shoulder was covered, and might have hurt more if I only had my tank top on. My advice is to go as fast and efficiently as you can. Try to go in between the wires. If you are small you have a little more of an advantage. Be prepared to get shocked, but it really doesn’t hurt all that much.
9) Trench Warfare: This event had me anxious, but it really wasn’t that bad. If you are small, you can baby crawl through it. It is just dark and rocky. If you are scared of tight places this might be a challenge for you. The weather also helped, since it wasn’t too hot it was pretty well ventilated.
10) Walk the Plank: First let me give props to Jen for doing this challenge without hesitation, even though she is not a proficient swimmer. You ROCKED it Jen!!!! You have to climb up to a fifteen foot platform and jump into a pool of water. Thankfully I had read a blog that mentioned that the water was going to be dark and it was going to take a little to get back up. I jump next to Jeff and once I went down my head exploded (didn’t plug my nose, I guess I am not 8 anymore), when I got up (took about 20-30 sec) I was so disoriented that I didn’t realize I had to swim straight and not right (that was the closest ledge to me). I started swimming and I wasn’t struggling (or so I thought). I immediately felt someone get hold of my legs and I thought, “Oh no I swam over someone coming up!!!”. No, it was the lifeguard. I must have looked like I was drowning or he was trying to get me out of the way. I think it was more the first thought, because they asked me like 5 times if I was ok. Which I was, but my right ear was clogged for the rest of the course. My advice on this is to not over think it and just do it. They have 3 lifeguards in the water and a couple on the sides if you struggle, they will get you to the edge. Just take a deep breath (which I think I didn’t), and plug your nose if you think your sinuses are going to pop.
11) Cliffhanger: This wasn’t as hard as I thought. You basically have to get up a really steep hill, but there is cargo netting to grasp. Just keep moving and zig zag up. On the way to the next obstacle, they had the “Wounded Warrior” carry. We had to carry one of teammates for 100 yards. I carried Jen for about 25 yards, and then Jeff carried me for the rest. After that, I pretended to carry Jeff.
12) Berlin Walls #2: After we did the Wounded Warrior carry Steve rolled his ankle (we were around mile 5) on the terrain. We could tell he was in pain, but he continued on and ROCKED it! These set of walls were intimidating. They were much higher than the last set. When I first saw them I thought, “No way I am going to be able to get over even if they give me a boost.” Some nice gentlemen stayed to help out our team. I didn’t get over with as much ease as the previous set of walls, but I did. The jump down was hard. I didn’t do it properly and I slightly twisted my ankle and hurt my inner thigh when I swung my leg over. For a split second I didn’t want to do the second wall, but Jeff (who by the way was my biggest cheerleader) encouraged me on. I got up ok and landing was a lot better. If you are short you will need help no matter what on any of the walls. My best advice when training really work to get your upper body strong.
13) Log Jamming: You have to go up and under a series of logs. At first Jen and I were moving fast. The last two set of logs you have to get over are higher and stacked unevenly. It was unexpected. That slowed us down and tired us. It was after this obstacle that I started to feel my energy drain. I forgot to mention that our 5-year-old came into our bed at 2 AM the night prior (our alarms were set for 4:15am). I went to his bed, but I didn’t get back to sleep. I felt it through this obstacle.
14) Mud Mile: If I wasn’t tired before this really sucked whatever energy I had left. This was a series of trenches of chalk grey mud that you had to climb in and out. At some points the mud was up to your chest. This was a team obstacle, the hills were really slippery, you really needed someone to either help you with a pull or a push. Thankfully it wasn’t a mile. After this obstacle there was a water station (our third one of the course) they had some yummo organic shark fruit gummies. They helped. We were also halfway done with the course.
15) Dong Dangler: This obstacle will be my albatross until I do another Tough Mudder. You have to rope climb (holding a rope with your arms and feet and shimming across a pond). To get on the rope other people have to hold the rope down so you can wrap your legs around it. This is what unnerved me. It didn’t start directly over water it started about 5 feet over a little cliff and you aren’t over water. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get across. I thought if I could get the hold I would probably drop down immediately and I could wade to the other side. When I saw that I would probably dropped on land it freaked me out. I was the last of my teammates to go. Unfortunately, the people behind me didn’t know that you had to lower the rope. I asked them to and a few of them did, but they didn’t get it low enough. I got one leg up and then the rope sprung up, so I freaked out and I skipped it. This brought me down for a bit. I was really disappointed in myself. I came to the conclusion that I tried. Even though I didn’t get on and then skipped it. I at least tried to get on. This is a perfect example, that this is just as much as a mental game as it is physical. My teammates were very supportive and I was happy they all got to the other side!
16) Underwater Tunnels: By this time, and thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the wind had really picked up and the temperature dropped from our starting time. At this obstacle, you had to swim about 25 meters to the barrels. The water was more choppy than I would have liked. We got in and waded until my feet couldn’t touch. I swam for about 10 seconds when I realized I wasn’t going to make it. My feet felt so heavy, everything felt heavy I grabbed Jeff and he took me until I could touch and I waded back and met them on the other side. I really wasn’t upset over this. I listened to my body. This and the “saving” at Walk the Plank showed me that I am not as strong swimmer as I thought. I am going to take an adult swimming course this upcoming year.
17) Kiss the Mud 2: On the way to this obstacle there was a lot of climbing and getting over trenches. Also going down muddy hills. There is no shame in sliding down on your butt on some of those hills. You just have to get down some how right? It doesn’t matter how. Once we got to the obstacle it was the same crawling under barbwire over mud. Did this one with ease.
18) King of the Mountain: This was really fun. We had to climb up and down 2 giant mountains of hay bales. And then get over 2 rolls of hay bales that were on their side. When you go up the hay bales, try to find where 2 meet. Push yourself up. Do that until you get to the top. On the descent, just gently slide down them. The rolls of hay were a warm up for Everest. You had to get a running start and throw yourself up. Jeff or Steve pulled us up on these.
19) Hanging Tough: Before we got to this obstacle we completed mile 10. Only 1.5 miles to go. That last 1.5 mile felt so long. This is the ring obstacle ( the rings are about a couple of feet apart) you have to try to get across a pit of water. If you can’t you fall in the water. Jen and I skipped this one. I had resolved to improve my swimming and the pit looked deep. After my incident at the pond I didn’t want to chance it. There is no shame in that. On this day I had done more things that I never thought in my life thought I could do. I resolved to remember what I did, not what I didn’t. Both Steve and Jeff ended up in the water. We resolved to improve on this for next year.
20) Funky Monkey: This obstacle is monkey bars. Not any monkey bars, some roll, some are greased and they go up and down. I knew I wasn’t going to be strong on these. We notice the water wasn’t deep. So both and Jen and I gave it a shot. Jeff went before me and he dropped on the second greased rung. I hung on the first rung and I fell to join Jeff. We swam across. Jen and Steve both fell and someone fell on Jen, but she pushed through!
21) Boa Constrictor: On the way to this obstacle we were encountered with a muddy swamp pond we had to cross and then a lot of up and down rocky terrain. This was the one obstacle we had to wait in a line longer than 5 minutes. This wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was two black tubes the first one goes down and you end up in some water the next one you have to go up. It’s a lot harder since you are wet on a slippery surface you tend to slip down. For bigger people it is easier to go on your back and push on your heels. I was behind Jeff and Jen and Steve were in the pipe next to us. I was about to turn on my back when I heard Jen say,” Marisol! Crawl like a baby!”. It paid to be small on this obstacle too. I did as she said and it wasn’t bad at all.
22) Everest: This is the big half-pipe that you try to get up with the help of people on top. Jeff was first to go. He ran up the pipe and when he was about to go vertical he threw his body up and he grabbed the ledge and the guys up top grabbed his arms. It took 4 people to get him up but he made it. Steve was next to go (we were surprised he did this on a bad ankle) he tried 3 times, but decided to stop after his third. I was next I ran as my life depended on it. When I went vertical I threw my arms up, I grabbed for Jeff’s hands, but I couldn’t get a grip so down I went. I tried 2 more times and on my third time when I came down I landed hard on my chin. I didn’t try again. Next was Jen, she made it on her first time. She grabbed Jeff’s arm. At one point she was completely hanging upside down, but she got up there. Steve and I were so happy and proud that our better halves made it. I will get you next time Everest! The key to this is to run as fast as you possibly can when you get to the point that you are vertical throw your arms and body up. Do not grip the hands. Try to grip the person’s arm and hold on for dear life!
23) Electroshock Therapy: You need to have a strategy on this one. We decide to go individually and just go through as fast as we could. Now I don’t know if we got lucky, but none one of us got that bad of a shock. Definitely cover your head with your arms to protect your ears and face.
We MADE IT!!! 23 obstacles and 11.5 miles completed. We got our orange headband and our free Dos XX beer. Even though by this point it was chilly and I was shivering a bit, I took down that beer. It was like nectar from the gods. We finished in 4 1/2 hrs. Definitely within our estimated time. This was such a great experience. I was proud of our team and of myself. It’s a hard feeling to explain. I felt accomplished, but I couldn’t wait to come back and do it again! Team Stay Strong will be going to a Mudder in 2013.
My Final Thoughts
Do not take the water obstacles lightly, just because you are an OK swimmer in a pool doesn’t mean you are an OK swimmer in a lake with clothes and shoes on. Do some swim training. That is something I strongly regret that I didn’t do. For your running training, train on trails, and not just on a treadmill. If you plan on running most of it, you need to be able to run at least 5 miles with ease on trails. I highly recommend training with Cross Fit. Cross Fit workouts shock your body. The workouts sometimes are so uncomfortable. Your body with be used that discomfort on Mudder day. Honestly, I never once felt tired enough that I wanted to quit. The reason why I didn’t finish the obstacles I didn’t wasn’t because my body couldn’t do it, it was because my brain couldn’t do it. That is something I need to work on for next time. You don’t find out what your course will look like obstacle wise until 2 weeks before. Be mentally prepared to do all of them. Train your brain too. The reason why I didn’t finish 4 obstacles was all mental. It wasn’t because my body couldn’t do it. I have to do more mental training for next time.
Since our Mudder was in South Carolina the terrain was mostly flat. Yes we had some hills here and there, but it wasn’t like if we were doing it in Utah or New Hampshire. They added mini obstacles in between obstacles, most likely to compensate for the flatter terrain. I also think there were more water obstacles to account for that. My advice, be ready for anything! Also, listen to your body and your inner voice. If something doesn’t feel right don’t do it. You want to have fun, not get hurt because you aren’t ready for that obstacle. You can get it the next time (I promise there will be a next time because, these things are addicting!)
I recommend you wear (at least at your first mudder) some dri fit pants that cover your knees. Jen had the genius idea of getting high knee socks. Those help our pant legs from rolling up and it kept our shins and calves from getting scraped up. You are going to get bruised regardless of what you wear, but in wearing pants you can avoid scrapes on your knees. I kept my long-sleeved shirt on the entire time. I was going to take it off at one point, but thankfully Jen persuaded me not to. The long-sleeved shirt gave added protection to my arms and elbows. You will bruise. It’s 36 hrs later and new bruises keep popping up. Wear them as badges of honor. They show all your hard work! Wear old shoes that you have trained in that still have a few miles left in them. I also duct taped mine to make sure I didn’t lose them in the mud. If you wear contacts. Bring an extra pair. When Jen jumped off Walk the Plank. One popped right off from the force of the submersion. Luckily she packed another pair and a wet wash cloth in a plastic bag (FYI we brought fanny packs back by having the guys wear them).
Before we left the house I drank two water bottles with Emergen-C in them. I also took a bottle to sip on along the way. I had a small peanut butter sandwich at the house and a Cliff bar right before we got there. Definitely hydrate and have something to eat. I was impressed with how well placed the water stations were. There were 6 along the course. They also had a light snack at each one. You can always bypass them, but at your first Mudder I recommend taking advantage of them. It’s also a good place to banter with fellow competitors. Also, there is no need to bring race goo unless you don’t plan on stopping at the stations. I brought a ton of race goo (put them in trusty old Fanny), but we didn’t use one.
When you make up your team, make sure you all have the same goals in mind. It just makes it easier. The reason why I had so much fun this first time has a lot to do with my team mates. Not only did we help and supported one another. We joked the entire way. We had so much fun bantering with each other and other participants. I am sure they were tired of me saying how we all were going to get e-coli or some other bacteria or viral disease. I was mostly kidding, but it does cross ones mind when you realize you are ingesting swamp water. Best costume goes to Rocky. We saw him running along around mile 6. Not only did he have the Rocky hair, gloves and striped robe, but he had music. YES MUSIC! When we were behind him his music was playing the Rocky 4 score. I was yelling DRAGGGOOOO!!!! He totally played along with our banter. It’s moments like that which makes this event so different from others.
Train wisely for the Tough Mudder find what is right for you. Train your body and your brain. Also set realistic goals for yourself so in the end you have a sense of accomplishment. Make a kick ass team! My team made this first time so AWESOME! We definitely made friends for life!