Sep 27, 2011

Tough Mudder: Part 3 – The First Half of the Course

Now for the fun, play by play of our time on the Tough Mudder Course...

We were off, taking on the first two obstacles immediately as we past the start line. A reminder, the first was the Braveheart obstacle that found us running straight up a steep incline. Not much running actually took place. With all the people, and the steep incline, we mainly power hiked our way up, at one point through orange smoke that was set off near the starting line. Wasn't a huge fan having to walk within inches of the canister. Luckily, once past it, I could breathe in the beautiful, crisp, cool and clean air that Tahoe has to offer.

We quickly fell behind Kyle, Angie, Brooke and John. We wouldn’t see Brooke and John at all after that and Kyle and Angie when we had only 200 yards and two more obstacles to go. Just before the race, Tui said she would stay with the last person in our group and most of us agreed we’d do the same but we quickly found that this was going to be hard. It was the first split of two within our group of 13.

We quickly came upon the Ball breaker obstacle. None of the oversized exercise balance balls came near me as people taller than me did a good job at keeping them above my head. At the bottom of a rocky incline we came to a hault, then moved at a snail's pace up to the top with the mass of people. At the top was the Kiss of Mudd.

While the water was cold and muddy, I didn’t find it too hard. I used only my arms to move my body through the water, gliding and floating under the barbed wire to get to the other side. Some guys behind me would pass me, using their legs more. Problem was, that by using your legs at the end, your butt wound up out of the water and more than a few who passed me got caught up on a barb or two. Of course, I didn’t go unscratched either. The pit was full of fine gravel/pebbles/sand that tore up my elbows as I'd already taken my hot pink arm warmers off. I still carry miniscule scabs on my elbows from where I got cut up. It would be the first blood drawn, but not the last, for me.

Brett, Trina, Kel, Lisa and Tui would fall behind after this event, and soon Tui was told to catch up to Cameron, Kelley, Jeff and I. This is how the groups would stay the rest of the day.

At some point, as we powered our way up more and more inclines, I saw a sign for the Death March obstacle. It wasn’t any different from any other incline or hike we would take part in the rest of the day and the only way one could have opted out of this one was to throw up an X. Only 2 miles in, I don’t think any one did this unless they had twisted an ankle. It was disconcerting to see a gal running down the hill, past us, back toward the finish line, but we never saw any one that needed help as we continued our way up.

Eventually we came across the Mud Bath. We jumped right in and made our way under the board and across. I do have to admit this is when Cameron and I began to notice that I’m not fond of dark, cold water and going under an object, even for 2 inches.

Upward we continued to the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. While I jumped into the muddy, watery ice bath like everyone else on my team, I froze when it came to going under the 2-inch thick board. My heart was fluttering and I was scared of not coming up. Cameron was already on the other side as were all my teammates so they cheered me on as quickly as possible. Cameron says he grabbed my hand as soon as he saw it coming up on the other side, pulling me up and pushing me forward to get me out as quickly as possible. I remember the ice was harder to get through than expected - it had started to melt together into blocks, versus being small, cocktail-sized cubes.

We were risking hypothermia by this point. I hardly remember much as my mind stopped processing anything until I realized more people were in and behind me needing to get out. Cameron and Jeff stalled after getting out to help those people out while Tui, Kelly and I moved around in the after area to get warm quick. We would still be cold when we arrived at Everest. Thankfully, Tough Mudder provides what looks like Mylar sheets to help warm people up if needed. We'd see these scattered about the course the rest of the day and see oethers use them as supermen capes. We joked that Kelley looked like a baked potato or potato chip bag whenever she had hers on. She was the only one that would use one from our group.

On we climbed until we got to Everst. There was a pile of people waiting for a turn to get up and over so we had to stand around for probably 20 minutes. People who had already made it to the top stayed up there to help pull a few more and this continued in waves. Finally, we it was our turn. Cameron laid on the bottom of the curve with his feet up against a small lip to brace his body. Jeff climbed up to stand on Cameron’s shoulders while laying against the last of the curve. I used Jeff’s knee to climb onto his shoulders and reach for a hand from above. It took a moment to get someone’s attention from above and I was still too short to be able to comfortably grab his hand. He and another guy said to wait for a shirt that was being used to hoist another person up. As I waited I could feel us slipping down more. Finally we got the shirt and I wrapped a hand around it. I was going up, I could almost reach the top or someone's hand when…

The shirt snapped. I fell. Hard. I didn’t slide down like Everest is designed to allow. I went straight down and hit the curved portion with my lower back. I instinctively curled into a ball as I fell knowing Cameron and Jeff were below me. I luckily didn’t hit them, I don’t think. Tui was right there asking if I was alright. I knew my back was hurt – I’d hit it twice like this before falling down the stairs of our house in Fremont. I got up and walked to the side of the crowd to grab my breath and then quickly decided to opt out, walking around the event to wait for my team on the other side. First Kelley, then Tui came over. Tui would ask again if I was ok. According to her I’d taken a pretty knarly fall. I said it hurt, but not enough for me to stop. I knew the next day would be worse and would tell Cameron shortly after this event that I wouldn't be working the next day. He didn't question me - he could see I was in more pain than I was letting on.

Finally, Jeff came over. Cameron would end up falling twice before making it over. The second time he fell, he fell hard like me and would hurt his hip. This would cause him to compensate for the injury by overusing his knee on the other side through the rest of our adventure. But he made it over. In hindsight, Cameron thinks he should have had me try to get over using one of the sides where some two by fours were nailed to the wall to aid in climbing up to the outstretched hands. I look back and think I needed more upper body strength training that involved me being capable of performing many pull ups.

We walked slowly to the Funky Monkey to allow me to get comfortable again. Cameron wouldn’t tell us about the hip injury until later. At this point I was determined to finish the course, but maybe not attempt even one more obstacle.

Kelley and I both opted to walk around the Funky Monkey. She didn’t want any more water and I didn’t want to fall and risk jarring my back more. I think Jeff made it the farthest on this obstacle. Cameron made it almost half way up to the peak and Tui only made it one rung.

Our mystery obstacle was only yards away. And so much for me not doing any more obstacles. I'd now decided that I would evaluate each obstacle as we got up to them to determine if I would do it or not. I'd avoid anything that risked jarring my back but I'd also come up her to not just walk 13 miles, but participate and test myself of the obstacles.

We all made it up the ropes to the platform thanks to some help from each other and other participants. Cameron and Jeff stayed a little longer to help another team get started.

On we trekked to almost the very top of Squaw, to the Devil’s Beard obstacle. It may have been September, but at this elevation, there were still patches of snow and the people that had laid out the course decided it would be a good idea to lay down the cargo net for Devil’s beard in one of these icy patches. There was already a trail of people going through which made entering Devil’s beard easy, but as I watched, some people lost their Tough Mudder bib numbers on their backs trying to slide through. I didn’t put my bid number on my person – we already had the number written on our foreheads and one arm or leg (I had one of each). I found Devil’s Beard hard to navigate if I tried to walk with my head and hands up. On the other hand, if I raised my butt up and lowered my head, using my hands to walk across the snow, the cargo net slid right over me. With a few stops here and there because of other people slowing in front, we got through rather quickly and I stayed a moment to help hold the net up while others got through.

After trekking to almost the top, it was time to head down a not so rocky rock slide obstacle path. Don’t get me wrong, it was difficult. It was mainly dusty, slippery dirt and steep! My way down was slow and steady while others passed me running by, almost uncontrolably. The rest of my teammates definitely went the slow and steady pace as well.

Tune in tomorrow to here about the other half of our adventure and how it turned out. Will we ever do this again?

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