The SoCal Tough Mudder
I love and tread events like the Tough Mudder. I know that they’ll be difficult and at various stages during the course I will be full self-doubt and of questions like, “why in the hell am I doing this?” But there will be plenty of fun moments even in the worst of it. And the exhilaration at the end, that sense of accomplishment is incredible and has a direct correlation to the level of difficulty.
It certainly seemed like this one would be one for the books. The temperature was supposed to drop at least ten degrees, making a high of 50F optimistic. It would be a rare and fortunate occurrence when the sun would poke itself out from the clouds. There were also around three times more water obstacles than in any other event like this that I’d done. The altitude and hills looked intense but not more so than in the past, at least on paper.
We were soon running down a hill and when I turned a corner, what I saw horrified me. It was one of the mystery obstacles, so I hadn’t mentally prepared for it, not that that would have helped.
There were water filled tanks with stairs leading up to them, filled with ice. Race volunteers continued dumping bags of ice in the tanks, directing up “go under” the beam that divided the make-shift ice bath in half. I asked how deep it was as I stepped in, only to find it was much deeper than I thought. Suddenly I felt as I was going to have a heart attack and I was swimming underwater in the ice. I popped my head out on the other side, barely able to think or to breath and struggled to pull myself out. Cindy and Skye were there to witness me looking very scared and freaked out. I threw my now soaking cap to them and headed up the hill, a very steep hill.
Climbing up the 15 ft platform and jumping back in the lake took no hesitation at all. It did take my breath away as the water enveloped me, but when I bobbed back up to the surface, I once again found myself gliding through the water, warmer than I had been moments before, watching the steam coming off the lake.
The problem was getting out. The clouds kept away any warmth the sun might have provided and the wind was plain torture. There was a tent set up with heaters but what would be the point. It also didn’t seem to be in the Tough Mudder spirit, so I marched on. Literally as next obstacle was called the “Death March” and it lived up to its name. The next couple of mile would be almost all uphill. There were icicles on the trees and the shrubs were all covered in frost and ice. Around the summit it had dropped below freezing and we were in the clouds. At an aid station, they were handing out emergency thermal blankets. That was a life saver. It would blow around in the wind and I turn about attempting to get more coverage, but even when it was just around my shoulders it was better than nothing.
I finally reached the summit. I was alone in the clouds. On the course map they label this part of the race, “Primal Scream”, but I couldn’t muster it up, or did not want to. It was serene and humorous. I did not feel like I had conquered the mountain, but I also did not feel it had beaten me. So I merely silently ambled on down the hill.
I had forgotten about “Greased Lightning”. One more slide into the water, again plunging down, taking my breath away and then relaxing into the warmth of the water. But by now, more than 2 ½ hours into it I didn’t want to linger. There was ice formed on the ropes leading out of the water.
It was mostly downhill from this point on. Any uphill was a nuisance and walked but we knew it was almost over. When we got to the Berlin Walls, an obstacle that took me a couple minutes with little effort at the warmer NorCal Mudder, we figured out a way to hoist our bodies up the 12 ft wall only to peer ahead and see 4 more of them to climb. A grunt and a smile and a good heave-ho and up we went, taking a moment a the top before dropping down and struggling up the next one.
For the next couple of miles, the last couple of miles, my biggest concern, my goal was to finish uninjured. It was downhill and steep. There were several snow makers that contented themselves with throwing frigid water at us.
There’s a few more Tough Mudders this year. I’m signed up to do the Metro Dash in Atlanta, which is pretty much the opposite of what I just did. It’ll be sprinting a few yards from one obstacle to another, one a flat surface, at a low elevation but hot and humid. And then who knows? Any suggestions?
More pics and post-race or should I say event analysis to come