El Fuego

Kim Larson is a very good friend and She helps coordinate She Does Tri camps. She recently conquered the Tough Mudder race and lived to tell her story.   Also congrats to my friend Mindy Apple and her team.  We are proud!  Read Kim’s experience and maybe you will be a tough mudder next year.

So everyone knows, I survived Tough Mudder safe and sound – and had a great experience in the process.

I’m not very good at writing race reports (although it’s something I recommend doing if you want to document your race experiences!) – but I wanted to pass along some notes from the race. First off, it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be (I would have to say it is not the toughest one-day endurance event on the planet – they watered down a lot of the obstacles – I think most people felt this way and vocalized it, so I expect future Tough Mudders will be more difficult). Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t easy – and I was pretty sore for a couple days following the race (and I have cuts and bruises all over my legs) – but it was definitely do-able for people in much worse shape than I’m in. Second, if any of you are single ladies – I highly recommend these races. It was 5000+ racers, about 85 – 90% men. What a pleasant experience for me!

Cliff Hanger Kerri Jerry JenniWe started the race in the middle of a ski slope (had to walk up the hill) – the waves were groups of 500 people, we were the second to last wave. They fired a cannon and shot off fireworks for each wave, and when we went off, all 500 of us charged down the mountain screaming at the top of our lungs. We then made a sharp right and another right and had to run back up the hill – and further towards the top of the mountain (called the Death March). A little beyond halfway up there was about 20 feet of snow and volunteers yelling at us to crawl over it – so we all dropped and crawled (part 1 of the cut knees). A guy next to me looked at me while crawling and said “why the hell are we crawling?” I thought for a second, and said “because we are sheep.” He seemed to like that answer. Towards the top of the mountain there was a huge netting that you had to run under (so hold it above your head). Being a woman – a shorter woman at that – was a serious advantage here – I just snuggled up next to a guy who was about 6’3 and made him hold the netting above his head (I didn’t have to do anything but maintain his pace). As we headed back down the mountain a bit, there was a log pile – everyone had to grab a log and run up a hill, do a u-turn, and come back down the hill (you can imagine the comments from all the men about “carrying wood”).

Log Carry

From here, we turned a corner and faced the most difficult obstacle – called Cliff Hanger. It required us to “run” up a double black diamond ski slope – and yes, it felt like trying to climb a cliff – a fairly long cliff. Out of every athlete I saw on this course, I did not see ONE run this hill. In fact, most people had to use their hands to help pull themselves up (I was behind two army guys – one stopped every few feet to dry heave, the other wanted to stop, but I was on his heels so I think he was embarassed 🙂 This hill / cliff was where my soreness came from (and part 2 of the cut legs, as I had to do part of it on all fours).

Mountain view

After finally summiting the cliff, we climbed through tunnels (only about 10 – 15 feet long – no turns, no worries of claustrophobia) – then it was a nice 2 mile run through the woods (which was extremely pleasant and mostly downhill – I was able to maintain a pretty nice pace for most of this run, likely due to the fact that I was trying to impress all the shirtless men around me. Out of the woods was the Swamp Stomp – about 30 feet of running in waist high mud / water. I forgot how much fun it was to splash in mud – not as much fun to then continue running with heavy, muddy sneakers! Next came the military crawl under the wire (which was not barbed) – this wasn’t difficult, but did account for part 3 of my cut legs. As we ran back down towards the resort (and past it to the water), the lines for the obstacles were very backed up (lesson learned to race directors – space out waves better, add more obstacles).

Under the wire

The next obstacle was two ropes suspended over cold water – the idea was to walk along the bottom rope while holding the top rope for balance. By the time I got there, the ropes were sagging into the water, so I basically took the plunge and used the rope to pull myself along through the water on my back (as did everyone else). A nice gentleman pulled me out of the water, and it was on to the underwater tunnels – which was just diving under two barrels – no problems there. Next was Walk the Plank – which were essentially narrow wood diving boards set up four across – the lines were long, so I got to watch plenty of people do flips and belly flops off these until my turn.

Ball Shrinker

I could see my teammates just ahead of me, so I knew I’d catch them by the next obstacle – also met a group from the DC area, identified by a Reston Triathlon t-shirt (they knew David Glover!). I did a classic jack-knife off the plank, swam back to shore (which isn’t so easy with mud-filled sneakers on!) – then to the walls. These were four walls set up one after the next – because of the back-up, they were asking that everyone only did two of the walls. I found a teammate and we waited together for our turn. The walls were only about 10 feet high (as opposed to the 12 foot walls advertised), with a block attached to them about 1.5 – 2 feet from the ground (only about 1.5 – 2 inches thick). Nothing else to grab on to. Considering we were in the 4000-something group to hit these walls, and everyone had just come out of water, the walls were covered in mud and water. I am no Air Larson, I can not jump 8 feet in the air. I ended up getting a boost from one of my teammates and another guy (a lot of people were getting boosts up – there was the one guy who basically hurdled the wall, I have no idea how he did that) – all went well, but I have a nice bruise on the back of a thigh, I’m assuming it’s a result of the walls.

Kim and Jerry looking at wall

Next we zig-zagged up and down a hill, then slid through the mud back into the pond. Over one more wall (only about 4 – 4.5 feet high), a half mile run to the finish. The finishers chute was lined with hay barrels soaked in kerosene and set on fire – so we didn’t have to run over the fire, but we did have to run “through” it – which felt like running through an oven. I managed without a burn (had less luck the next day when I made soup – apparently I can handle obstacles, can’t handle being domestic) – and my favorite song in the world was looping at the finish line (Johnny Cash – I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire, I Went Down Down Down and the Flames got Higher…)

Ring of Fire

I ran across the finish line with my teammate – straight into the beer line. GREAT RACE!

The after party is what I expect Woodstock looked like (on a much smaller scale, of course) – live band, mud slide, mud pit, chicks wrestling in the mud, half naked men dancing in the mud…etc. etc…my girly side took over and I wandered over to the hoses to clean myself off instead of participating in this silliness – I was tired 🙂

If anyone ever considers one of these races, DO IT! I plan on doing the next race in NJ in the fall – can’t wait!