Tough Mudder is not a race, it’s a challenge. This is seen on their website and many signs when you arrive at the venue. As a Mudder you compete with a team, but you are really challenging yourself. Teamwork and camaraderie are just two of the strengths you must have to compete, but more imporantly to complete Tough Mudder in order to earn your headband and cold Dos Equis. These just aren’t given out to anyone. As the starter, Sean Corvelle said, “you must learn to dig deep” as you face your fears and push yourself harder than you have probably pushed before in order to accomplish Tough Mudder.
After months of build up to Tough Mudder 2013 – Lake Tahoe I was thrilled to be in the car heading up to Incline Village last Saturday with a group of my teammates. We were all filled with anticipation and excitement as first time Mudders, along with some anxiety and questions about the course, which we learned about the night before in an email from TMHQ when they released the course map.
Our team totaled 15 participants, many of use who had never met,most first time Mudders, from all walks of life but we came together as one, as a team for the next 7 hours to challenge Tough Mudder. While we moved through the course together in different groups we all challenged the obstacles as a team. While I had some hesitation about leaving my teammates behind, I would end up running a majority of the time between obstacles. After spending 8 months training, including 3 months of running I was out to challenging myself. I did however return from the summit to provide a smiling face and some encouraging words to a struggling Mudder who you could see had his shovel out and was digging as deep as he could go.
At Incline Village, the altitude tipped 6,350 feet. After the gondola ride to the Lodge of Big Springs, where Tough Mudder was staged we still could not see the top of Mt. Pluto, which come to find out was the midpoint of the race. It was also at 8,610 feet high! If the obstacles didn’t get you the altitude and thin air could. If you were able to sustain those, then the warm temperature and sun beating down on you constantly would wear you down. Through out the entire experience faces were filled with smiles, even from those on our team who were struggling. It just required you to dig deeper to find out just how much you had.
The successes and failures were part of the Tough Mudder course. Cheers, excitement and high fives went around when a teammates accomplished an obstacle, yet there was always a helping hand or two to assist a teammate out of the water. There was absolutely no share in not attempting an obstacle you did not feel comfortable with. This was made clear before we got to the start and reiterated by the stater. No one on the team looked at their teammates any differently. We were one and in it together to the end.
Unfortunately, injuries are part of Tough Mudder, even the most trained athlete competing could slip, catch an ankle or experience leg craps. Even worse you could break bones or tear ligaments, muscles and tendons. We heard rumors through out the day of other Mudders being carted off with severe injuries. Our team hit the injury bug after Arctic Enema, as one Mudder caught severe leg craps. She had a teammate work out the craps in an attempt to continue, but they were just too much and medical was called. It was recommended she not continue. We still carried her spirit with us through the remainder of the course.
The Berlin Walls seemed to hit our team the hardest, with 3 Mudders going down to injury. In fact as I pulled myself up the first 9′ wall and threw my right leg over I felt a crap come on quickly in my right calf. Thankfully I was able to work the pain down to a minimum and it was not much of a problem the rest of the way. My running partner suffered more severe cramps in his legs, but continued to keep pace as we ran between obstacles. While many other Mudders worked through leg pains, we all continue on with one goal in mind. An orange headband and a cold Dos Equis.
The team effort culminated with the final two obstacles, Everest and Electroshock Therapy. After nearly 7 hours of mud, sweat, blood and tears you were tired. Legs and arms fatigued, skin burned and lips chapped and hands sore. Everest looked challenging, but with reassuring teammates providing support on the top of Everest we were able to pull those requiring a bit of help up onto the apex of the obstacle. Yet another testament to the strength of the team concept behind Tough Mudder.
As we approached the final “hoooorah!” that being Electroshock Therapy we planned on finishing much like we started, as a team. We broke the team into two groups, locked arms and went charging through the mud and electric-shock only to come on the other side as winners. Crossing the finish line gave you a true sense of accomplishment as a TM volunteer crowned you with an orange headband and another handed you the best tasting Dos Equis you ever had.
Would I do this event again? Oh hell yes! If you have ever thought about doing an event like this, I say so for it. If you want to push yourself and see just what you are made of, by all means dig deep and give it your all. It might not be easy for some and you will face adversity and fears. Seeing smiling faces, hearing cheers as we ran the course, lending a helping hand to ANY Mudder who needed it while on the course. That is what Tough Mudder is all about. It was one of the best experiences in my life, having the opportunity to participate in this event. I look forward to 2014 and running with the same group of people, strengthening the bonds we made this year.
On a personal level, I accomplished more than I ever could imagine. While I won’t call Tough Mudder easy, it wasn’t as difficult as I had made it out to be. I had fears to face out on the course, which only strengthened my resolve and increased my confidence when I accomplished certain obstacles. Still there would have been no way I could have accomplished this by myself, as the saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.” I will set higher goals for next year and push myself even more to challenge Tough Mudder. Hoooooorah!