Attention! Tough Mudder Austin recap! It’s long. But it’s also my birthday, so you kinda have to read it, right? Plus there’s pictures!
Well, I did it. 12 miles. 28 obstacles. Lots of mud. Lots of water.
And I loved every minute of it. Well, almost.
All jokes aside, I seriously did almost back out of this thing. I didn’t feel like I was training enough, and I envisioned myself being left in the dust by a bunch of elite athletes like my sister in law Michelle. I just didn’t want to do it. But then the old hubby gave me a pep talk, something about really wanting to do this with me, wanting to cross the finish line with me and say, “Hey — look what my wife and I did together.” Okay, fine, you win, you sap!
We could not have asked for a more beautiful October day in Austin for our event. What started out as a chilly day turned sunshiny and brilliant — not too hot, not too cool. We had 28 obstacles to complete, with 12 miles of running stretches in between. I’d love to go into each and every one in extreme detail, but this post is long enough, so hang in there for me and just envision lots of barbed wire, hills, crawling through tubes, and mud, okay?
I was pretty nervous coming into the event. I had the vision that I wasn’t trained enough for it, but once we got there I was pretty pumped. Ignorance is bliss, and I strangely wasn’t really apprehensive about the electroshock obstacles (uh, more on that in a minute), and really, how do you prepare yourself for things like JUMPING INTO A VAT OF ICE WATER?
The first well known and anxiety inducing obstacle was the Arctic Enema. Christian and his sister had experienced this one before, and their freaking outedness was freaking me out. They knew what to expect, and were still nervous about it. But our later start time gave us a slight advantage on this warmish day — there was no ice in the water, and the normally blue coloring (for effect) had been overtaken by mud.
But let me tell you this: you cannot fathom that kind of cold. I’m talking hyperventilating cold. I felt the thickness of the board we had to go under, maybe an inch or two, plugged my nose like a baby, and pushed myself under the surface. I came up gasping for air and screaming something along the lines of “Get me the f*ck out of here!” and reaching for some random fellow mudder who was standing at the edge pulling people out. So thanks, dude! (Side note: one of our teammates described the Artic Enema as “a refreshing dip.” He was not kidding. I think he’s a robot.)
I loved jumping off a 15 foot platform into the water on Walk the Plank, and surprised even myself that I was able to pull myself up and over the 8 foot Berlin Walls thanks to a boost from our guys. The walls ended up being some of my favorite obstacles.
My arms disagree.
Some logs, dark tubes, and cargo nets later, and we came upon the Electric Eel. The object: crawl through mud while live electrical wires dangle directly overhead.
This obstacle? Totally made me its bitch. When Christian and Michelle did the event last year in Virginia, they said that there were some pretty hot wires, but the rest were more like pin pricks. Well people must have been talking, because THAT WAS SO NOT THE CASE THIS TIME AROUND. My ass (literally MY ASS) got zapped all the way through this thing, but I kept trucking along, shouting expletives, straining to reach the end, only instead of being able to just crawl out, we had to heave ourselves up and over a wooden plank, fully exposing ourselves to the last line of wires.
I totally got stuck. I kept getting zapped and zapped, and each time my body went dead. Christian was finally able to pull me out, and I collapsed on the sidelines, where many a mudder passed by asking if I was okay (yay team!).
This was where I found my achilles heel, my fear. I couldn’t shake it — the intense trauma I felt from the past few minutes or the feeling of electricity still jolting through my body. I was a Sad Mudder.
And then I ate a banana and threw one of my gloves into the trash dumpster, so it was basically the WORST OBSTACLE EVER.
Dark Lightening, the mystery obstacle, was a big, low, white structure in which everyone was lining up to crawl in on their bellies as loud, rumbling thunder played over speakers. Darkness doesn’t bother me, and neither do confined spaces.
I lowered myself and pulled back the scrap of carpet that was covering the entrance. It revealed another scrap of carpet a few feet ahead.
I crawled, pulled back that scrap of carpet, and saw people belly crawling through the darkness, under row upon row of those damn electrical wires.
And that was when I completely lost my shit.
“I need out! I NEED OUT!” I screamed, and someone started pulling my feet and legs out of the box. I scrambled up and wandered aimlessly toward a volunteer and was finally able to stammer out that I needed to skip this one and seriously get me out of here lady or I will hurt someone. So then I just waited for my teammates like a little hurt puppy. GAH.
To make up for my wimpiness, I completely rocked the Mud Mile: trench after trench of pure muddy muck, separated by slick, muddy mounds. No wonder people duct tape their shoes for this event.
We crawled through more tunnels, carried some logs, I made it one bar across the monkey bars (I knew that would not be my obstacle), and climbed more, even higher Berlin Walls. Then I obtained my worst injuries in the obstacle known as Watch Out for That Random Stump, where I totally ate it trying to run around a group of slow ass dudes who were taking up the entire path.
It was getting late and we knew we were close to finishing.
“Just Everest and then the Electroshock Therapy,” Christian said.
I knew. I knew that Electroshock Therapy — running through a thousand or so hanging, live electrical wires — was the last obstacle in every Tough Mudder. But just the mere mention of it brought back all of the anxiety of the Electric Eel and Dark Lightening, and I immediately wanted to vomit.
[Insert major eyerolls here.]
“Just skip it,” everyone told me. No big deal. No harm done. You’ve come this far.
But I’ve come this far.
Here’s the thing. Most of these obstacles play on the fears that a lot of people have — water, heights, electricity, enclosed spaces. The object of the Tough Mudder challenge is to overcome those fears and cross that finish line knowing you faced them with a fierce “eff you” staredown. You get that orange headband knowing that you gave it your all. If I just walked around that last obstacle, I wouldn’t feel like I had really finished. I wouldn’t feel like I earned that damn headband.
So I went. I tore through that obstacle without even alerting my teammates, including my husband, that I was going. They all thought I was skipping it.
And honestly? I don’t even remember going. My mind is blank until I was face down in the mud from a ten thousand volt shock. I raised my head to see where I was, only to find the end of a wire mere inches from my face. I freaked out and started yelling for someone to get me out of there. Yes, please, volunteers line up to wade through the electricity to fish me out.
Suddenly, somewhere from Tough Mudder heaven, our teammate Stan was there. He showed me that I was actually situated in a break in the wires — they were in front and behind me, but not above me. I could actually stand up where I was.
“What do you want to do?” he asked. “Do you want to get out? Or do you want to go through?” I looked over to the sidelines, where Christian stood, motioning for me to exit the obstacle if I wanted. I looked ahead to the end, where Michelle stood, holding her arms out, encouraging me to just run to her. Like a baby taking its first steps. (Well, we got the baby part right.)
What do I want to do?
I was frozen. “Push me,” I told Stan. It was the only way my legs were going to get to courage to move again. “You’re just going to have to push me.”
“Do you want me to go with you?” Um, yeah, that might be a better idea than just shoving me into a mass of electricity. Stan is a genius!
So we grabbed hands and charged towards the end, where of course OF COURSE I got zapped again and ate mud. But I did it! I went through, we crossed the finish line as a team, and I let the lady at the finish line put that bright orange headband on my muddy head, grabbed my beer with my muddy hands, and congratulated my team with muddy hugs.
I gotta tell you, I feel like a total badass since completing this event. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve always been pretty athletic, and I’ve been a runner on and off, but I’ve never physically and mentally challenged myself in this way.
Although the event was not easy in the least and I was ready to drop dead from exhaustion after the adrenaline wore off, it wasn’t as hard as I had made it out to be in my head. Looking at their website, one would think that you have to be some elite athlete to complete this course, but that’s just not the case. There were mudders of all shapes and sizes out there. Sure, you need a good amount of agility, strength, and athleticism if you really want to make it through most of the obstacles. But I surprised even myself. I pulled myself up over walls, I clung to tiny hand and foot holds to cross a waterway, and we probably ran 9 or 10 of those 12 miles. And we did it as a team.
See, the Tough Mudder experience is all about teamwork — not just those on your team, but in the event as a whole. That’s what’s so cool about it. It’s great having your own teammates to depend on, but it’s awesome when you’re struggling and a stranger holds out their hand to help you up.
Or a mudder completes the monkey bars and starts coaching those in line on tips for getting across the loose bars.
Or a bunch of guys immediately lay on the ground to pull the cargo nets taut, making it easier for others to climb.
Or your own teammates, some you just met that very day, coming together to get each other through one of the toughest events on the planet, then sitting around a table, noshing on BBQ, and recounting the day’s obstacles one by one.
So now my bruises are fading, my scrapes are healing, and it no longer hurts to blink. My house guests are gone, it’s up to me to do the dishes and entertain my own kids, and no one at Costco gave me the Tough Mudder nod of recognition. WTF, do I have to wear my orange headband everywhere? Because I will, you know.
Would I do it again? I’m sure I will. This isn’t an event you only do once.
Besides. There are some electrical wires on my shit list.