Two week ago I was all set for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, which is the half marathon championships for the blind and visually impaired, until Uncle Sam decided to close up shop. This closed the National Parks which serve as half the run course. I got an email on Thursday stating the race had been postponed to November 10th. Hopefully Uncle Sam gets his crap straight by them. Now, I had to find something else to do. Brittney and her friends at Warrior Strength Training had formed a team for the Tough Mudder Seattle on Saturday. I had never done one of these and didn’t know what I was getting into but when I heard they had day-of registration I was in.
The Tough Mudder event would involve 11 miles of running with twenty obstacles intermixed. The obstacles very from plunging into ice cold water to running through a mine field of electrical shock. This event is not a race but its always hard not to get competitive when you compete for a living. Since I was doing the event with the Warrior Strength Team we would work as a team to get the “blind kid” through the course. As Brittney and I walked over to the event start on Saturday morning, it was clear that they were going to make this thing a mud bath. They definitely hosed down the ground even around registration so it was a slip-and-slide of mud. I kept thinking to myself as I sloshed through 4-6 inches of mud, “I wish this stuff was all chocolate brownie mix than I could lick all the remains from my lips and fingers.” This was wishful thinking because it wasn’t and we were going to be muddy buddies for the next four hours.
A wave was started every twenty minutes and our start time was at 10:40am. It was very clear we were in the right spot because we were starting with all of the pink shirted T-mobile team. The event begins with a small wall you have to climb before you even start the event. The MC was pretty entertaining and I think that we definitely learned the Tough Mudder slogan “Hoo Rah” very quickly. It was even hash tagged (#HooRah) multiple times so all of those Twitter fanatics could comprehend. All Tough Mudder’s benefit a great cause, The Wounded Warrior Poject and they have raised over six million dollars during their short existence.
When the gun went off it was a slow walk to the first obstacle. At this point there was no reason in attempting to avoid the mud and water. Our shoes were painted in brown and they would only get worse. The first obstacle was a plunge in muddy water under barbed wire. Since I couldn’t see how close I was to the barbed wire and I didn’t want to further impair my already horrid vision by jabbing a sharp object into my eye, I shoved my butt and my head down barely above the water. Others from Team Warrior Strength kept their eye on me and let me know if I was keeping clear of the canopy of barbed wire above. After the first obstacle I was sufficiently drenched and cold but we had to wait in line for the next obstacle. It became kind of like a line for a ride at Disney Land except we had taken a mud bath beforehand. The air temperature was in the low 50’s so we weren’t exactly on the beach sun bathing or anything. Next up was the “Muddy Mile” which I am kind of confused why its called that because I am pretty sure that every mile on the course was thoroughly covered in mud. As I sloshed through the mud, I always ran behind a teammate to avoid any hazards that I would most likely hit. The footing was not great and with each step I was unsure how my foot would land.. Instead of being cautious I just put my trust in my teammate in front of me and put one foot forward after another.
At mile two we hit the giant mud hill. We again waited in the line, cooling our body temperature down once again. This hill was steep and very muddy but I was able to maintain my footing and get to the cargo net near the top and help others along the way. Some people were struggling and reaching, just hoping a strong hand would save them from sliding to the bottom. I was able to assist and save a few lost souls before heading on to the next obstacle. The next obstacle was the high plank drop into water. At this point, we were so covered in mud that the jump into the muddy water felt like a bath. This obstacle involved climbing up a slick wall and then jumping from a thirty foot high wall into moderately cold water. Some people did canon balls and those that wanted to show off even did flips. I don’t know what I did but I know I was freezing when I got out. I don’t know about you but I don’t exactly have a lot of insulation so keeping warm can be a major problem. I was wishing I could borrow some of the insulation from others temporarily and then I would give it back of course.
We continued on our way, waiting in line for obstacles and taking modified contrast baths, as it seemed that every obstacle involved water. We army crawled through the slippery wet drainage tube, piggy backed each other for the required distance and attempted to cross the water pit with the gymnastics rings. I thought the rings would be somewhat easy for me but between the difficulty seeing the next ring and the slickness of the rings, I fell into yet another water pit. We were about halfway through the 11 mile event when we got to the only obstacle that I was dreading the entire time. The Arctic Blast was a huge dumpster filled with ice cold 35 degree water with a wall in the middle that you have to submerge and swim under before swimming a few feet to the other side. I hate cold water. It didn’t matter that I had experience swimming in the cold waters of San Francisco bay in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. Before jumping into the Arctic Blast I made sure to ask my teammates to explain the orientation/setup of the obstacle. There was no way I was going to jump in there and tread water while I tried to figure out what to do. I jumped as far as I could towards the wall, plunged my head down, felt for the bottom of the wall and raced to the other side. I didn’t really feel the cold as much until getting out when I felt the burning/numbness through my body. I started running aimlessly to stay warm as I thought to myself, “that really wasn’t bad.” What was worse was that we had expected a nice stead three mile run after the Arctic Blast but instead they added in the Serpantine section that entailed climbing up a muddy wall and then sliding down the muddy and root filled wall into a small muddy stream. After waiting in line for 10minutes for each pass over the stream it got a little old and a lot cold.
For the next few miles we ran without a water obstacle but it was not clear sailing. Most of the running was on a winding narrow trail with roots, rocks and branches. We weren’t going at a fast speed at all but I was just staying behind my teammate who was yelling “root, rock, root, root.” Luckily, I have turned my ankles so many times that they are now like chewing gum and just keep stretching. There was even a section where they literally just cut down Christmas trees and laid thousand of branches on the ground and you had to run through them. I was about an inch away from being jabbed in the man space and forever losing the ability to bear children. Thankfully, GOD is on my side and didn’t let that happen.
At about mile seven of this muddy adventure, we got to the log carry. Being advantageous, I decided to pick up one of the bigger logs of the stack. I figured it would be a good workout and probably not be too long of distance. Well, I made a wrong decision because they had us carry this log all the way around the woods and I still have log marks on my back. This was probably the hardest obstacle of the event. I didn’t think many of them were that hard but I think the long waits in line and the fact that you aren’t racing allowed your body to recover.
The Berlin Wall, which were two high walls just like those in the “Be all that you can be in the Army” commercials was a turn around point to head towards the finish. We worked as a team and got everyone over without any trouble. On our way back we were constantly running through deep mud and sliding from side to side like they do on those aerobics videos. There were even a few falls but at that point we were so dirty that it didn’t matter at all.
The last mile included Everest and the Electric Shock Therapy. Everest is a skateboard half-pipe that each person must run up and jump at the right time so teammates can catch and pull you the rest of the way. Some teams were jumping and totally missing “the catch” multiple times but I think Team Warrior Strength only had one miss. Brittney helped me down the backside of Everest as it is a series of wooden beams with gaps in between. One missed step and you fall down into the darkness supporting Everest. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and we collected our team and headed to Electric Shock Therapy. Supposedly, Electric Shock Therapy contains 10,000 Volts of electricity and if you touch any of the live wires hanging down you will receive part or all of this shock. Brittney charged into therapy first and I followed. I attempted to dodge the wires but in my mind I really wanted to touch a few. As I ran through Shock Therapy, it was missing the “Shock” aspect. I didn’t feel any electric shock nor did Brittney. It was kind of a let down. Is that disturbing that I wished I would have been shocked with electricity?
Immediately after Shock Therapy was the finish line. We received our distinguished orange Tough Mudder headbands and were now part of the Mudder family. I was glad I did this event as I always love taking risks and conquering events not created for the “blind man.” I knew it wasn’t a race when I went into it but I thought it was going to be more difficult. I didn’t expect as much mud but I did think the obstacles would be a little more difficult. I am not sure how my teammates feel but my conclusion was that Tough Mudder Seattle was more muddy than tough!