Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tough Mudder

As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:

I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time.
I do not whine, kids whine.
I help my fellow mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.

Two weeks ago, I completed the Tough Mudder course as part of the two-person Team "Off-Label". I have wanted to do the Tough Mudder since my 2nd year of business school, when a classmate did the course in Pennsylvania. In fact, my interest in muddy obstacle courses began when I spent 24 hours in Quantico as part of a Leadership Venture in my first year. The Tough Mudder is modeled after the training that British Special Forces soldiers go through.

I chose to do my Tough Mudder at the Palmer Coking Coal Company in the great state of Washington. Why Washington? It's simple - I love the Northwest, as evidenced by my July 4th trip to Oregon. The Northwest is famous for its cool weather and greenery - two things that I felt would make the Tough Mudder more fun.

The Tough Mudder consists of 25+ obstacles over 11 miles:

  • Walls to climb
  • Cargo nets
  • Monkey bars over water
  • Swinging ropes over water
  • 20 ft. jump into water
  • Mud-based obstacles
But, by far the worst obstacles are:

  • Electric shocks
  • Arctic water
The Tough Mudder is infamous for its electric shocks. There are two electric shock obstacles where the shocks are 10,000V and about 10 amps. The first one is called "Electric Eel" at the halfway point. Mudders crawl through water / mud all the while being shocked by little hanging ropes. What's worse, I think the water transmits the shock. The second shock obstacle occurs at the end of the race. Mudders have to run through hanging ropes and mud. The best strategy is to sprint through the ropes becaues the electricity pulses every second so the longer you are int he ropes, the more you will be shocked.

The artic water is another brutal obstacle, this time at the beginning of the course. Mudders have to wade through ice water, duck their heads under a barrier, and exit the obstacle. The whole process takes 1 minute. It is one of the most painful minutes of your life! After coming out of the obstacle, your body is completely frozen and it is impossible to move, talk, or think. After the Tough Mudder, I came down with a pretty bad case of the flu. I think the Artic Water obstacle decimated my immune system and made the flu worse than it would have normally been.

My favorite obstacle though was "Everest". The last of many walls that Mudders have to climb, Everest embodies the spirit of Tough Mudder. This obstacles is almost impossible to complete on one's own. Only the fittest people (1% of Mudders) can run the half pipe, jump, reach the top and pull themselves up. The rest rely on the help of Mudders who are already atop the obstacle. We run, jump, reach, and hope that our hands will be grabbed. From there, we are pulled over the obstacle and are on our way to the last shock obstacle.

The atmosphere at Tough Mudder is just electric as the shock obstacles. Mudders are friendly, fun, and crazy. It seemed like 20-30% of Mudders have a military background (which is good for the rest of us since they can help us get over Everest!). After the race, mudders are greeted with food and beer. Throughout the race, Mudders read signs saying "When was the last time you really earned a beer?" That's true, most of the time we drink beers for no reason at all. But when you've truly earned that beer (Dos Equis in our case), it tastes that much better. It's a raucous celebration. I participated in a pull-up contest and churned out a respectable 3 pullups - not bad considering I had just completed a 11 mile obstacle course. Oh, and you get this super awesome orange headband - not for sale!

The rest of the weekend in Seattle was fantastic. At night, we went to Hotel 1000 for drinks and to watch college football. The next day, we ate donuts at Top Pot and hung out in Pike Place Market.

I put the Tough Mudder next to the Boston Marathon as one of my proudest athletic accomplishments. 

Somehow my number remained intact through the race

Team Off-Label at the Finish

The last obstacle
Everest, my favorite obstacle
The fearsome electric eel

Monkey bars over water

Climbing over logs

Over the cargo net

On the march

Generic mud obstacle

Climbing the wall to the start

Climbing down something muddy
Through the course, we were dreaming of donuts. The next morning, we had some at Top Pot!
Top Pot is charming inside
Books galore at Top Pot

No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to Pike Place

The original Starbucks is at Pike Place

Live music abounds at Pike Place

More live music

Flowers at Pike Place
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