Four months ago when I was challenged to do the Indiana Tough Mudder I remember thinking to myself ... "I'm not sure I can do that." But, as I sit here and reflect on it all, I realize that it wasn't a matter of not being ABLE to do it, but simply not WANTING to do it. There's a huge difference. In all honesty, I probably would not have chosen to do it on my own, but I was challenged by a group of guys that I have the utmost respect for and would go to battle with them any day of the week. And, when they chose to battle the Tough Mudder, I wasn't going to allow them to do it without me. So, I sit here two days after becoming an official "Tough Mudder" with, not only a fair amount of soreness, but also an incredible sense of accomplishment. I, along with my teammates, am a Tough Mudder! Below is a recap of the Mudder. I tried to remember everything as accurately as I could, but honestly, some of the obstacles are a bit jumbled in my memory. But, this will give you a pretty clear description of one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Some of the pictures below are of our team and some are simply from the Tough Mudder facebook page.
This was the start of the race. It was so motivating. The music, the Star Spangled Banner, the talk from one of the workers ... seriously, I was ready to run in to a wall afterwards because I was so pumped up. One of the lines I'll never forget: "This course was designed to hurt you." That, right away, gave me a respect for the challenge ahead of me.
We started out with a fun, but pretty difficult run. I was so charged up from the start of the race, but it took about the first 1/2 mile to suck that out of me. If you think there are not hills in Indiana, just visit the Attica Badlands and you'll think differently. The hills, many of them simply sand, really were a challenge and got you warmed up quickly. That's me in the red shirt and black hoodie, by the way, running next to my teammate Jim.
This was CLIFHanger ... the first real obstacle we encountered. It was just one very steep and very muddy hill. Most people needed a boost from behind or a hand to grab on to above to make it up.
After the difficult run and hill, we came to the Kiss of Mudd. Barbed wire above, nothing but mud underneath. Honestly, this was a fun obstacle, we all came out about 5 pounds heavier because of the mud that was caked on us.
After that came the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. The good news ... it washed all the mud off. The bad news ... it was absolutely freezing! It was basically a dumpster filled with about 4 1/2 feet of ice water. Half way through the obstacle is a board that you have to duck under, so you have no choice but to entirely submerse your body. I really mentally prepared myself for this so when I took the initial jump in with my teammate Jon, I didn't really feel all the bone chilling cold ... but I think that was probably just because my body went in to shock! Once I had to submerge my head, though, the cold really started to sink in and my only thought was "Get to the other side as fast as possible!"
After that, you really needed to start moving or you'd freeze up very quickly. So we started a brisk run with numb bodies and made it to the next obstacle ... Log Jammin'. We had to climb over a series of very high logs. Again, tough, but fun, with lots of teamwork.
Next up was the Swamp Stomp. Up to that point in my life, it was the thickest mud I had ever seen or been in. I don't know how long we were in it, but it seemed like forever! Seriously, the mud just seemingly sucked every part of your body in to it. I was next to a girl who was literally stuck in the mud ... stuck ... could not move. We leave no "mudder" behind so for the next few minutes I would grab her foot and pull it out of the mud so she could take a step. We then repeated this process for several minutes until she was able to go on her own.
From there we came to the Berlin Walls. There were several sets of these walls throughout the course. I believe the walls were 12 feet high. Throughout the course there would sometimes only be one wall or there would be two or three sets of walls you had to climb over. That's me in the red with my teammate Kirt helping me over. I was glad to get over each wall but they were a challenge and became more challenging the longer we were on the course. At the second set of walls we came to, someone had fallen and was seriously hurt. Our team took some time to pray for this person. I'm not sure what happened, but sure hope he is OK.
Boulderdash was just a series of boulders and man-built obstacles to get through.
Creek Crusade was just a long run through a creek. Actually pretty fun and just felt like being a kid running through the water ... except it was really cold and I was covered with mud.
After that we rounded a corner on our run and I saw what was next ... Walk the Plank. This was the biggest mental obstacle for me of the entire race. I'm 40 years old and just learned how to swim this year because I knew I had to know how to swim to be a part of the Mudder. I also knew that I had a very large fear of water and I did not want fear to be a part of my family and I didn't want to pass that on to my kids. You can read about me learning how to swim right here. Throughout the weeks leading up to the Mudder I had been visualizing myself jumping off that 15 to 20 foot platform. I prayed about it often. I didn't ask God to take the fear away, but I simply asked for the courage to walk through it. When we got to the obstacle you had to use a rope to climb to the top of the platform. When I got to the top, there was a lady in front of me who was freaking out. I remember thinking to myself "This is NOT what I need to see right now." I realized that she wasn't going to go, so I got around her, looked to see if it was clear and then went to jump. But, right when I reached the edge my legs just stopped. I don't think I consciously stopped them ... they just stopped as if to tell me "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?" (Different Strokes reference for the day). So, I stood there and re-grouped my thoughts and verbally spoke the words "I will not be afraid." I thought about my kids and the legacy I want to leave for them of walking through fear. So I jumped off and felt like I was falling from the Empire State Building. I don't know how far I was in the water, but it seemed like it took an eternity to reach the top. Once I reached the surface, I tried to take a breath, but the water was so incredibly cold that it literally took my breath away and I couldn't breath. I started to swim as best as I could but was really amazed at how difficult it was for me to get through the cold water. Everything on me was moving in slow motion. I must have been swimming for the next 20 years or so because it felt like it took that long to reach the shore. But, once I did and got out, even though I was so cold, the sense of accomplishment I felt created this warmth all over my body. I knew I had conquered my biggest fear of the course ... and it was AWESOME!
Next up was the Boa Constrictor ... a series of drainage tubes leading in to cold water. You went down a set in to the water and then up a set out of the water.
The "Turds Next" was next. A cargo net you had to get across. I chose to log roll through most of it and then bear crawl the last few feet when I needed to get to the platform on the other side.
Then came the Mud Mile. I thought I had experienced the thickest mud of my life in the Swamp Stomp until I came to this part of the course. I had never seen anything like this in my life! It just stopped you in your tracks! My thought was to get a good head of steam and try to get through it as fast as I could. So, I started running, hit the mud, and then immediately lost my left shoe. So, I had to get through the rest of the Mud Mile with one shoe on. When I got to the end, it took 5 to 10 minutes to get my shoe untied and put back on. My hands and the hands of everyone on our team were so cold that you just couldn't use them normally. I was so angry because I was slowing down our team. I was thankful that they were so helpful and didn't curse my name ... to my face anyway. :)
We did a bit of a longer run through the woods (Frozen Forrest) in which we spent probably 20 minutes in water that was up to our waist. It really started to get very cold, but we all got through it. We then came to the Hay Bale Pyramids ... a series of very high hay bales we had to get over. I actually enjoyed this one.
Hold Your Wood was just an obstacle where we had to grab a log and then carry it up a large hill.
We then had some more Walls to get over and also the Spider Web ... a large net we had to get through while climbing up a steep hill ... and then we came to our mystery obstacle. About 50 feet of nothing but ice that you had to crawl through because there were live wires about 18 inches above. This was the first electricity we encountered on the course. For me, everything started out fine. Started crawling through the ice and it was incredibly cold. I got to about the mid-way point when, the next thing I know, I look up and it seemed like I was looking through a set of binoculars backwards. Everything seemed far away and tunnel like. I remember thinking "I'm done. That wasn't too bad." And, then I realized that I was still in the middle of the obstacle. As things started to clear up in my head I realized "Wow. I just got blacked out by one of the wires. That was pretty cool!" One of the wires hit me in the head and completely blacked me out. Not sure for how long, but it definitely gave me a greater respect for this obstacle and the one to come at the end. I made my way through the rest of this getting hit with wires about three other times in the back and shoulders. This was incredibly cold and I just wanted to get out of there. My other teammate Jeff also got knocked out on this one.
Another run and then the Funky Monkey Bars. That's me in the red. I made it to about bar number 6 and promptly fell in to the water. I was pretty tired up to this point and really thought I'd be able to make it at least half way. This one totally kicked my butt.
A run through the Fire Walker obstacle, which really wasn't that bad, and by that time I was so cold that I just wanted to stand by one of the fires and warm up. But, I was nearing the finish and wanted to get there as quickly as possible.
I'm not sure what this obstacle was called, but it just sucked! Freezing cold water up to my chest and the footing beneath was so uneven. I just kept on falling and at this point in the race was just tired of being wet. It was a bit frustrating for me, but I got through it and was happy to be done with that one.
After the previous water obstacle you had to run up and down a series of hills. When I rounded a corner I saw Everest and for the first time of the entire race I saw and obstacle and mentally said "Oh no." That half pipe looked to be about 100 feet high! This was my major butt kicking of the course. Above you can see my teammate Jeremiah getting up. The idea was to run as fast as you could, take a leap and then hopefully grab the top and pull yourself up or latch on to a set of arms and have some help getting up. When it was my turn, I ran as fast as I could and about 1 foot before I reached the half-pipe, my foot hit a rock and I twisted my ankle and lost all my momentum. I continued to run and then jump and didn't come close to a hand or to the top. Once you fully commit to jumping and don't make it, your body just slams in to the half-pipe and you do, what I like to call the "Slide of Shame" back down to the bottom. I tried 3 separate times and each time just slammed my body in to that half-pipe and wasn't even coming close to a hand. That last time I hit my knee super hard. Man, did that hurt. Anyway, I conceded that obstacle. If I would have been coming reasonably close to a hand I think I would have kept trying, but, seriously, it wasn't even close. I was not going to get up it that way. I'm the only one on my team who couldn't complete that obstacle and, even now it just really doesn't sit well with me. I know I tried. I know I gave it my best efforts, but I really wanted to get to the top.
One last crawl through mud and under barbed wire. That's me in the first red shirt with my teammate Jeremy in the camo behind me and Jon in the black hoodie to my left.
The last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy. After being knocked out before, I had a new found respect for those wires and decided the best way to get through was just to go as fast as I could. I got zapped 3 or 4 times but all in the shoulder and chest. Whatever part gets hit just sorta goes limp for a moment, but if I didn't get knocked down I was just going to plow through ... which is what I did.
Overall, this was just one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I've done half-marathons and I did my first marathon last year. All, the marathon especially, left me with an amazing sense of accomplishment. It just felt good to be challenged. But, the Tough Mudder is an entirely different animal. I was challenged, I think, in every way possible ... mentally, spiritually, and physically. I had to face one of my major fears. I had to overcome the elements ... I'm not sure what the temperature was, but it was probably in the 30's when we started. But, the wind made it seem much colder. So, in every way I was challenged and knowing that I made it through and got that head band ... I've never worn a head band with more pride in my life. I, and everyone on our team, EARNED that thing. The best part for me was doing it with guys I love. We all helped each other and challenged each other and pushed each other. Knowing we did it together and having that shared experience is priceless. I think the best thing we all had going for us was that not completing the course wasn't even an option. Dropping out was not even though about. We all had the will to finish and we all helped each other finish and I'm so thankful for the guys that were on my team. I really had to lean on God with the water obstacle and was constantly asking Him for courage. The day of the race I got up at 3am and was getting ready and was able to spend some time praying. I, once again, asked for courage, and I really felt like I heard the Holy Spirit say to me "I've already given it to you. Stop asking already and just go do it." That was sort of God's butt kicking to me in the morning and I needed it. If you ever have a chance to do a Mudder, take the opportunity.