aka probably the most fun thing I’ve done since I was a child.
On Sunday, Bethany Lee and I met up in a parking lot in Belmont Ohio. I had just driven 4 hours, saw the sun rise over Pittsburgh, and only stopped at 1 sketchy rest stop on my journey.
She made a two hour commute. Both of us had no idea what we were getting ourselves into except what we could speculate from things we had read about online or heard from other friends. It was Tough Mudder Pittsburgh time, and I cannot count the number of times either one of us said “I’m really nervous,” leading up to it.
We took the shuttle, we walked the giant hill that lead to Powerline Park, we registered, checked our bags, wrote our numbers on our heads… then we waited. Our heat was set for 9:30, and honestly, the minutes leading up to it flew by. Before the race even started, we had to jump over a giant wall to get to the “corral,” and the fact that we both needed help doing so left me a little more concerned about how we were going to fare.
Still, the environment was so cool… everyone around us was a mixture of excited and nervous, everyone was joking, having fun, loud music was blaring, the pre-race ceremony was humbling but inspiring – it’s a privilege knowing that everything that goes into this race is dedicated to Wounded Warrior, and seeing so many people who were and are service members getting to run right along with you.
Obviously it was too late to back out, and as soon as we could, off we went, into a cloud of orange smoke and up a giant hill. For the next 3 hours, we played in the mud, we climbed things, we challenged ourselves to do things that otherwise sane people wouldn’t, and in the end WE HAD A BLAST.
Although I would like to relive every crazy detail of this race, I will contain myself, and tell you about a few highlights.
“Artic Enema” – This was an obstacle I wasn’t really looking forward to, but as only the second one on the course, I didn’t want to set my standards so low off the get go. Basically, you jump into a dumpster full of ice water, swim under a partition, and then climb up a ladder on the other side to exit.
The ice water actually felt invigorating, even though it shocked every muscle in your body and knocked the wind right out of you. Both Bethany and I both were “wooping” the whole time… apparently screaming “woop! woop!” as loud as possible is your body’s natural reaction to being cold. We were laughing so hard afterwards, but the ice bath definitely helped us pick up some speed and head off to the rest of the race.
“Fire Walker” – This obstacle requires you jump over flames into a pool of muddy water. Though it was kind of scary, it just plain made you feel like a bad ass. I love how when we got to this obstacle Bethany asked what was on the other side of the fire, and the staff told her snakes… as if they knew her affinity for snakes.
There was this one really steep hill – and down the middle and on either side there were trees. It seems like everyone navigated to the sides and were using the trees to pull themselves up. Bethany and I decided (for who knows what reason! Probably adrenaline meets anxiety) that we were going to just scale the middle part where there were no trees. There were some roots and rocks sticking out that could be used as hand holds, so we just shimmied right up. People started calling us “spider man” and “spider monkey” as we crawled past them and cheering us on. It was so cute. Definitely felt it in every part of my body when we got to the top, but getting “spider monkey” shout outs for the rest of the race was fun.
Everyone was so freaking helpful. The end. On obstacles that required climbing over high walls, there were always people willing to help hoist you over (seriously grateful for the team of guys that launched my wide butt over the Berlin Walls (ok wall, if you want to get technical as I skipped the second one)). Everyone throughout the entire course was kind, cheering each other on, and never scared to stop and give you a hand. We tried to reciprocate every chance we got, and that too made it even more fun.
The Log Carry – Carrying a log through a swamp is pretty intense, but I have never felt more bad ass in my entire life. I guess that’s probably not life changing or relevant to anyone, but I had to throw that in there.
On Getting “Electrocuted” – These were the obstacles I was least looking forward to. I am scared to change a light bulb let alone put myself in a position to get zapped by live wires. I did both obstacles involving these, and I am pleased to say that it really isn’t that bad.
Ok, it’s kind of bad. For example, the very last obstacle of the race is where you had to run underneath wires dangling overhead. Some of which were live, others not. You could either try and dodge all of them or plow right through. I of course plowed right through like a brilliant genius. I also got laid out about halfway through and faceplanted in the mud. Trust me, I dodged from there on out.
I think what was most fun about this race is that both Bethany and I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. We were both terrified, anxious, and almost not looking forward to it (well, I can’t speak for her, but…), but anyway, once we got out there it ended up being one of the best experiences ever. We were like little kids playing in the mud, climbing things, doing stuff that is inherently dangerous but not having a care in the world. We weren’t thinking about our time, or bruised and bloody knees, or the fact that we were wading through what was most likely manure for a good stretch of the race… we didn’t care that we were filthy dirty, sunburn, or looked like a haggard bag of rags… we just HAD FUN. I cannot think of any other time in my adult life where I just felt free to run around like an idiot. After the initial “shock” of the race itself abides, it was like nothing could stop me, nothing was too big or too scary, and the consequences of the following day (including the drawbacks of having bruised and bloody knees, and the fact that I can’t lift my arms up over my head) weren’t even a thought in my mind.
The beer afterwards was delicious, and I don’t even drink Dos Equis. The schwag that they send you home with including an Under Armor t-shirt and an orange sweat band are nice additions to my collection. The memories I’m taking home with me – I can’t put a cash value on. This was just the best time ever. Ever!
If you have ever considered doing a Tough Mudder, PICK ONE TODAY. SIGN UP. Start training. You CAN do it. And you will not regret it. You don’t need a giant team, you don’t need to be able to run 20 miles or do a million pull ups… you just need to have a positive attitude, be willing to help (and accept help!) from others, and show up on race day ready to have the time of your life! I cannot wait to sign up for another one and start training to come back even better this time around. Thank you again Bethany for being such a good sport and taking a chance with me, thank you for the amazing staff and volunteers for making the day so incredible, and an extra special thank you to my wonderful fiance for doing the laundry and cleaning the house while I was gone, as I am not going to be able to do anything functional for the next couple days.