A few months back my buddy Mike had suggested putting a team of people together to do the event (you don’t really compete in Tough Mudder, as the only real goal is finishing in one piece).   Team Mud, Sweat and Beers.  It seemed a fitting team name for the masochistic endurance event known as the “Tough Mudder”.   We had joked that the name should really emphasize the Beers part, since that was what we were best at.

We’d organized group training sessions, organized shared food, rented a big vacation house at the resort where the event was being held.  We even had a huge keg party planned for after the event.   It almost seemed like less of a challenge and more of a vacation.   That was until we woke up the morning of the race and waited outside in the cold fall air for everything to begin.

What is this thing all about? From the front page of the “Tough Mudder” website:

“Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor. With the best obstacles and the most innovative courses, it’s no surprise that Tough Mudder has ten times more participants than any other mud run and half a million participants globally. Tough Mudder has raised over two million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project. WARNING: Tough Mudder is 3-4 times longer and MUCH TOUGHER than a typical mud run such as Warrior Dash. On average, only 78% of participants finish the event. Only those in reasonably strong physical condition should enter

Now, I’ve done my fair share of endurance events.  Between triathlons, trail and road races, I’ve probably competed in over 50 events.  But this was different.  Maybe it was the waiver that read something like “You will likely get hurt by anything from an obstacle, to another participant or maybe even wildlife.  If you get die, it’s not our fault”.  Or perhaps it was the fact that they insisted on writing your bib number on your forehead like we were some wounded soldiers being triaged.  Did I mention the keg toss competition (which I did)?   Whatever it was, there was a different sort of energy than any other race I’ve ever been to.

And that theme carried on after the race started. As we ran everywhere there were signs encouraging you to toughen up, or stop whining, or if it’s not tough enough, they’ll gladly supply you with a backpack full of bricks. One, at the 3 mile mark, even joked that if you were doing the Warrior Dash you’d be done by now.

Any encouragement was welcome.  This event had a lot of suck in it.  From running up and down monster hills (did I mention it was situated on a ski resort?) to the seemingly endless amounts of cold water, mud and even ice (yes, ice) to the bone jarring falls and slides that sent one of us to the emergency room for stitches, saying it wasn’t easy would be an understatement.

And it wasn’t just the physical stuff.  Physically, for me,  it wasn’t overly challenging.  Credit it to the parallel marathon and rock climbing training I’ve been doing for the last few months.  Not saying the physical part was easy, because it wasn’t. But the mental part was far more difficult.

Submerging my entire body in a 30ft long dumpster full of ice water was pretty rough.  Just getting your body to do anything afterward is next to impossible.   Dragging my cold, wet self up a double black diamond ski slope was the definition of misery.  And this was only 1/3 of the way through the race!   But, as the old saying goes; That which has no cost, also has no value.

And over the next 5 hours, that value because apparent.  As the day progressed, the tighter our team became.  The more adversity we faced, the more we circled our wagons.

People got injured.  Muscles were pulled.   Blood mixed with the sand and mud.  As the hours got longer, fatigue set in.

So did the determination.  So did the grit.   Jaws tightened.  Fists clenched.   As the end neared, the comradery increased. We all faced a common enemy.  And that enemy would be defeated as soon as we all crossed the finish line.

“Looking good girl!”   “Keep it up buddy!”   “We’re almost there, no quitting now!”

And as the final obstacle was cleared, a lovely little gem called “Electroshock Therapy”, we circled the wagons one final time.  We linked up, arm in arm and cheered as we all crossed the finish line together.

Later that evening, as we shared food and drink and laughs about our various wounds, we also shared the pride of what we accomplished together.

15 people started and 15 people finished.  Today we had earned the most important part of our name; Team Mud, Sweat and Beers.

Enjoying a roaring fire and good company the evening before the race

 

Loading up the carbs with a big group pasta dinner!

7am morning of the race. As usual, i’m the only one not ready to go yet.

Just your average morning keg tossing. Great way to warm up!

 

 

 

And we're off!

 

This is not as fun as it looks

 

Yes, that's ice water. Also not pleasant

 

Hills. So. Many. Hills.

 

Running up a giant skate ramp. Much hillarity ensued on this obstacle.

 

One last huddle

 

 

9 miles done. Finish line ahead.

This is the kind of stuff duct tape is made for. Closing gaping wounds

 

 

finished and drinking beer. Glorious, glorious beer.

 

Thanks to everyone on Team Mud, Sweat and Beers.  It was humbling to be a part of a such a tough, awesome and fun group of people.  And special thanks our photographers/sherpas/cheerleaders/house mothers, Missy and my lovely wife.  Happy trails!

 

 

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