My KISA and I proudly finished the Tough Mudder in Tahoe on Saturday. They sent us the map of the course the night before and I made the unfortunate mistake of reading it before we went to bed. Mind you, the trip to Tahoe took 6.5 hours because of traffic and stopping for dinner, so by the time I was reading this in the hotel it was 11 pm. And we had to get up at 5 am to leave for the race. I learned the course was 5.25 miles straight up a mountain and then another 5.25 straight down. The elevation at the peak was going to be 8500’ and I was all too familiar with altitude sickness from our trip to Colorado to hike a 14’er. Oh, and did I mention there would be 19 flipping obstacles?? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep very well that night. The thing I was most concerned about was my knees. I’d iced them many times since the 10 mile run on Thursday and even iced them before I fell asleep Friday night. When I woke up Saturday morning I realized no amount of ice was going to make my knees not be swollen.
When we left for the shuttle pickup it was 44 degrees. Yes, Fahrenheit. My KISA and I had contradicting ideas of what the temperature for the day was going to be: he thought it’d be in the 90’s according to his weather apps and mine told me low 70’s. So, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into.
We got to the race pretty early as we wanted to get back to the city to go to a show later that evening, and we had no idea how long the race was going to take. Or if we’d make it out alive. (Yes, you literally sign a death waiver as people have died from such events.) They had a 7:40 am heat for the first wave, so we decided to get in the 8 am heat (the heats went every 20 minutes after us as well). I think my first dose of reality was as we were walking up to the starting line and you had to climb a wall to even get to the start. And, that didn’t even count as one of the 19 obstacles. FML. My second non-scheduled obstacle was when they asked all of us to kneel for 10 minutes while they explained the race course to us, paid tribute to the fallen soldiers, and gave us our pep talk. After about two minutes my “kneeling” turned more into a hunched-over half sitting position as I realized my knees really weren’t going to make it through the race. As we were about to start the announcer made us all take note of a huge divot in the ground to ensure no one broke their legs at the start of the race. This was becoming all too real.
The race started and my KISA somehow talked me into doing a walk/run for the course, which we continued throughout. I was kind of surprised at how easy it actually was for me, given the altitude and steep inclines. Maybe I really was tough.
Our first three obstacles were before we even made it to mile marker one. The first one was an obstacle called Glory Blades. It’s essentially a slightly slanted wall you have to climb over. I was pretty proud of the fact that I made it over with ease and no assistance. Ok, this isn’t so bad. Our second obstacle was called Kiss of Mud. As I saw the man spraying a fire hose of freezing cold water onto a pit I realized why it was called Kiss of Mud – you army crawl through mud with barbed wire above your head through a pit. Now, it may not have been so bad if it was actually mud. The problem with being in the second heat is that it was more like wet, hard ground, with lots of rocks and debris. I could feel my legs and arms being cut up as I dragged myself across the freezing cold, hard ground. When I made it out, my KISA was standing there with a huge grin on his face and gave me a high five. I think it gave him hope that maybe I’d be ok throughout the race. The last one we came to before the completion of the first mile was called Arctic Enema. I don’t really understand enema part, but I definitely understood the arctic part. You get into a tank filled with water and ice. Ok, at first I didn’t think that would be so bad because I was covered in cold mud and at least it would clean me off. What I didn’t realize until I stepped into the tank was that halfway through there’s a board that forces you to go underwater with barbed wire over the top of it to ensure you can’t go over. When I made it to the board I grabbed the underside of it to get an idea on how low I’d have to go and used it to pull myself under. When I came back up I had the worst head rush I’ve ever had. Think of it as eating an entire carton of ice cream in one bite, but only you don’t get any of the enjoyment out of the taste of ice cream. That one knocked me out a bit and my KISA could tell I was uneasy. He asked if I needed to take a break, but I’m stubborn and refused. We decided maybe running would be the best to help warm my body up again, which it seemed to.
At this point in time I realized we weren’t even 1/10 of the way done and only 3/19 done with the obstacles. I had a moment of silent panic, especially as I remembered that I’d have to do the Kiss of Mud obstacle another time later in the course. But, for some crazy reason I found that my body somehow adapted and the obstacles no longer seemed like a big deal, nor did the running.
The rest of the obstacles were as follows:
- Just the Tip – I don’t really understand the name of this obstacle, but it was walls set up going across a pool of water. There’s a board going across the top for you to hold onto and then three little boards on the bottom to make it the first foot of the wall. However, the next eight feet you have to hang and go across holding onto the tiny 2×4’s with your feet dangling. Since we were so early in the waves everyone was making it across, even the girls (or at least the ones that tried it). My pride got the best of me and I miraculously made it across. I’m not sure who was more surprised – my KISA or me.
- Logjammin – This obstacle was pretty simple and basic – you have some logs about 3’ high you had to climb over and some logs so high you had about 3’ to crawl under them. Obstacles like this made you thankful you were a girl and nimble, especially in seeing some of the men struggle.
- Lumberjacked – This obstacle was a little harder. It was also with logs, but instead of them being a few feet high, they were 7’ or 8’ high. And, unlike the smooth wall, these were actual logs with bark on them that scraped you. My KISA boosted me up on his knee and I struggled, but succeed in getting my leg over the log, only to scrape the inside of my thigh in doing so. I then watched as my KISA attempted in vain to jump up to the log and pull himself over. There were literally only a couple of guys that were able to do it solo, so when he made his final jump another guy and I ran to grab his legs and give him an extra hoist. Oh, and you do this again on a second log.
- Trench Warfare – I mentioned in my last posting that I don’t do well in small spaces. Trench Warfare is an obstacle of mazes where you crawl on the ground with a board and soil overtop of you. It still makes my heart race just thinking about it. My KISA offered to go in behind me in case I panicked and reminded me to take deep breaths out of my nose to avoid panicking (and I think he also wanted an excuse to check out what all these hills in SF have been doing for my behind). I shook the entire time I crawled through it and found I picked up the pace as I could see the light at the end and wanted to get the hell out.
- Electric Eel – The electric eel is basically a slip-n-slide, on flat ground, and with electrical currents zapping you. I got as much of a sliding start as I could muster and then army crawled my way to the end. This is where the cow prodder experience was put to use.
- Berlin Walls – These are 10-12’ walls with nowhere to grab or grip your footing, except at the base. Some guys tried getting a running start, but it didn’t seem to matter. This is where it was again nice to be a girl and just have a guy lift you up and then have you step on their shoulders to get your legs over. The only downfall is jumping to get back down. Not gonna lie – on the second one I landed on a big pile of woodchips and fell backwards.
- Kiss of Mud (II) – This one was a little better than the first one since there was more water on it, but you’re still army crawling on the hard ground with rocks and sticks poking at you and barbed wire above you (which ripped my KISA’s shirt…apparently he wasn’t low enough).
- Boa Constrictor – This is the one I warned you all about last week that I was most terrified of. What I hadn’t realized was that there’s an opening between the two tubes for a few feet with light. However, that doesn’t mean there was a lot of space at the end of the first tunnel or the beginning of the second one with all the water.
- Funky Monkey – These are monkey bars that go gradually up and then gradually back down. Since my KISA’s buff he had no problem making it across. I made it to the fourth rung before falling into the water. But, it was a rung before the red-headed guy next to me that thought he was tough. He obviously was not.
- Mud Mile – This obstacle was deceiving harder than it looked. You had about six huge mounds of mud, separated by mud pits that went up to your chest. Between trying to get footing to climb up the mounds and getting your feet stuck in the mud it provided a bit of challenge. Plus you also have to get back down the mounds back into the water. At one point in time I gave the guy behind me permission to touch my butt to hoist me up the mound when I wasn’t having luck. And he did.
- Hold Your Wood – This is at a half a mile of carrying a log. It seemed easy at first, but I realized it was because we were going downhill. Once we started back on the uphill loop I realized it was kind of heavy.
- Walk the Plank – I’ve cliff-dived before and jumped off a bridge, so this should be easy. You’re on a platform 18’ above a mud bath that you have to jump into. Thankfully the ladies at the top did a countdown for me to make it easier. It wasn’t until after I did it that I learned someone died in the WV Tough Mudder doing it (they drowned). I’m glad to know that information afterwards.
- Cage Crawl – This obstacle looks scarier than it is. You’re in a track filled with water, but they leave maybe a foot between the top of the water and the cage. You get in on your back and grab onto the cage to keep your head above the water. The only tricky parts were getting in and getting out.
- Warrior Carry – This was my favorite! In this obstacle you’re to carry your partner for half of it and then switch. My KISA being the gentleman he is just carried me through all of it while yelling, “I’m going to get you outta here!”
- Everest – Everest is a quarter pipe (as in what the snowboarders do tricks on) that you have to run and then jump to get onto. My biggest fear was that I’d run and then splatter against the side of it and slide back down. Thankfully my KISA and another guy caught me. Unlike the girl that went after me who did was I was worried to do.
- Electroshock Therapy – Last, but not least, is the famous obstacle that you run through and get shocked. Now, I thought that you could just run really fast. What I didn’t realize is that they make it muddy and swampy on the bottom to add an extra challenge. My KISA wanted us to be done by noon and right as we were ready to go through he informed me it was 11:59, so we had no choice and ran. Since he was next to me and I was only worried about myself, I didn’t realize that he fell at the end…and continued to get shocked. Probably better off or I would have fallen over laughing and gotten shocked as well.
After we got done we hosed off, hung out for a bit, and then headed back. We learned from the bus driver that we were one of the first ones (and were the only ones on her bus). It kinda made us feel bad-ass. We got back to the car and scrubbed some more with baby wipes in knowing we’d need to grab some lunch. We also stopped at a CVS to get my darling knees some instant ice packs. We both LOVED it and actually thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a good physical and mental challenge.