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Tough Mudder Austin: the course, the takeaway, and lots o’photos

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?

The Course

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.

tough mudder austin berlin walls

My arms disagree.

Tough Mudder battle scars bruises

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.

tough mudder austin

This is how pictures look when your waterproof camera gets dragged through the mud. Or maybe I’m still weepy from the anxiety of being electrocuted.

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.

tough mudder austin everest

Oh mah gah don’t drop me please.

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.

tough mudder electroshock therapy

Oh look. Leigh Ann’s on the ground. Again.

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.)

tough mudder electroshock therapy

Hooray for teammates that keep you going!

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.

tough mudder austin

4 hours, 12 miles, 28 obstacles. Where’s the beer?

The Takeaway

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.

tough mudder austin

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.

tough mudder austin

Look what we did together.

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Leigh Ann Torres
Writer, artist, wife, cook, maid, bookkeeper, mom to twins plus one...all around genie in a bottle, except you only get one wish, and it has to be reasonable.
41 Comments
  1. Wow! I’m impressed! What an awesome accomplishment and a great attitude to show your daughters!

  2. I am SOOOO proud of you!!! I love it when women find out what they are really capable of – which is always so much more than they estimated. Great job!
    I also think that it is ironic that the purple picture on the fridge (on the bruises photo) says ‘George was always the brave one.’ with one of the mambo saki characters jumping on the trampoline.
    You ARE brave! And now YOU will be the one to jump right into the next challenge while others stand by and say they ‘can’t’. You are officially a BADASS and don’t forget it!
    Love you, sis.
    Michelle

    • That’s one of the reasons I love that picture so much. And I love that I was capable of more than I thought I was. Such a wonderful feeling, and I couldn’t have done it without you, Christian, and the rest of our team. I love you and miss you like crazy!

  3. awesomeness and Happy Birthday! I tried twice to make myself go through the dark electric obstacle and backed out and walked around. I felt guilty but not enough to actually complete it. I’d say I gave the final obstacle a half hearted attempt. I had the same feeling you described that I couldn’t get that far without trying, but when the first jolt hit I was ready to just get out.
    It’s funny, especially since we have only actually met in person once, briefly at the start of the March of Dimes walk, but I thought of you lots as I completed the course. I knew you’d be facing it a few hours later. I kept thinking about what makes me the badass I often believe I am, when I keep self-doubt at bay. Umm, wrangling a toddler and two infants and a 70 pound dog at Petsmart, or two toddler and two preschoolers (one wasn’t mine, just under my care) at a playground = more challenging than 25 of 28 obstacles, and the other 3, as much as I detested them and ultimately allowed them to intimidate me, there are days that I would go through miles of electrocution to avoid the screaming and fighting of my children (who I love very much).
    No doubt, i am psyched for you to have accomplished this awesome physical feat but I think what you do every day,seemingly with a whole lot more patience than I do, makes you a tough mudder plus. You have, thus far, managed to bring home two premature babies and create a thriving home for them and a little sister. There are lots of people on the Tough Mudder course who would not have been able to get through those obstacles. I’m glad you had a chance to see yourself that way: a gift to you and your girls.
    I have to say I don’t think I’ll do this one again. I had a blast with most of it, but I don’t feel the need to ever be electrocuted again in my entire life. I will, however, keep doing things that scare me and things I doubt my ability to pull off: everything from taking three children under four. . . well, anywhere, to stepping into the role of the teacher in yet to be determined yoga classrooms, and running a 50k race in the nearish future.
    It’s been fun to be on this sort of parallel cyber journey with you. I’m pretty excited that I read you are planning to do ZOOMA. i think I live all of maybe 5 miles from you since we moved north, so maybe one day soon our actual lives will overlap. I think ZOOMA training starts in January :)
    Again, congrats on seeing your awesomeness and have a super happy happy birthday!

    • Kimberly, this comment means so much to me. I also love that we shared this experience virtually, and I was wondering how your day went as well. Sounds like you and I had similar electroshock experiences. Others on my team said that it hurt and sucked, but no one was affected/traumatized like I was. I love obstacle courses, and I love challenging myself, but that is the ONLY reason I wouldn’t compete in another TM. If I do, I may just go around since I’ve experienced it once. My SIL ended up skipping the Arctic Enema because she had a terrible experience in her first mudder event, where she totally panicked and had to be yanked out by my husband. And that woman IS a total badass, so I don’t feel too bad for skipping electricity. ;)

      Your thoughts are so true — why do we so often discount the hard work we do as moms as challenging? The day after the event when my kids were acting up and going through Grandma/Aunt Michelle withdrawal, I was begging to go back to the wet, muddy obstacle course. Because that was a snap compared to some of my days!

      Are you doing Zooma? I think you too are a total badass for completing Tough Mudder. It’s not an easy event, and I love seeing women — especially moms — challenging themselves in that way when it’s so easy to sit on the sidelines.

  4. Holy CRAP, Leigh Ann. You’re my freaking HERO.

  5. Woo!! Way to go Leigh Ann! And happy birthday, too!

  6. You are AWESOME! Yes, that was an ALL CAPS awesome!! You so deserve that orange headband. I will wear it every freakin’ day!!! Congrats to you!!!

    • Thank you! I never thought I would be so proud of a headband. (But they don’t sell them, so completing the event is the ONLY way to get one!)

  7. Oh, my God, your arm! But what a huge accomplishment!

  8. I’m so proud of you. What an intense day! I can’t even imagine!!
    Good for you for completing this.

  9. Happy Birthday! You are awesome. I’m so proud of you and your strength. I knew you had some misgivings about this whole thing and just bit the bullet and did it. I think you are the Mommy Honey Badger. Great job!

  10. Dude. I’m so impressed and jealous.

    • Do it! You could totally do it. Come to Texas where the weather’s nicer though (although the Chicago one is in May, so that might not be too bed).

  11. Holy crap. I could never do that. Mostly because I’m terrified of enclosed spaces. The rest would’ve been fine but a tiny tunnel with people at both ends and one that could stop and trap me. KILL ME NOW.

    You are a tough mudder.

    • But you could! If there’s one thing I learned in this event it’s that we are capable of much more than we think we are! The good thing about most of the enclosed ones was that you could see the end, which helped.

  12. Happy Birthday, my love! I almost got a little teary-eyed seeing the picture of you and me at the finish line. That is totally what I was after. What a great experience, right?

    Eddie and I are already planning on doing the next one in April. And yes, it gets better the more you do it and the more people you do it with.

    • It was an amazing experience, and I’m glad you talked me out of quitting. I really, really enjoyed it. It was a snap compared to being home with these 3 crazies most days. ;) Love you.

  13. Color me impressed. I would have also wanted to back out and Hubs would have given me that same sappy BS pep talk about having it be something we could finish together and I would’ve been like, “Whatevs, buddy!”

    Just kidding. He would have totally convinced me to go, just like he convinced me to ride The Griffon with him at Busch Gardens this summer when I was about to chicken out. And I did it because I knew he’d be with me and somehow that made it feel less scary. And then I wound up loving it, 250-foot 90-degree drop and all.

    But what kind of sadistic obstacle course has live electrical wires at THREE SEPARATE OBSTACLES?! It’s like the creator of the event had some sort of fetish.

    Anyway, you’re a badass. That is all.

      • You’re so funny. And thank you! It really was fun, but I’ve always been into the physical challenges. And yeah, WTF about 3 electro obstacles? In the past events it was just the last one that was famous for being electroshock. Obviously they feel the need to up their game. It was developed by these 2 guys who train British special forces or something like that.

  14. Congratulations sweetie!! I am so proud of you! There is no way I could do that..I am too chicken. You should wear that headband with pride and let everyone know how badass you are!! Love you and see you soon! I hope you have an awesome birthday too!! XOXO

  15. I’m signed up for the zombie run in December, and I am scared shitless. I don’t doubt I can complete the course, I just doubt that I can complete it in one piece.

    • You will rock it. I looked it up, and I wish you could see what the obstacles are going to be!

      Funny side note: My SIL who is the elite athlete said she could never do the zombie run because she is that freaked out about zombies, even though she knows they are not real! We all have our weaknesses!

  16. proud of you. very cool.

  17. Very Impressive!! I think it’s so awesome that you and your hubby did it together. Not sure I could ever do that. Not afraid of mud but climbing walls isn’t that much fun for me. ;)

    • I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do the walls, but it wasn’t so bad. I think when you’re in the element, your body just kind of takes over.

  18. Ouch ouch ouch!! I feel electrocuted reading this! Wow, I couldn’t do that. Way to go!

  19. WTF? how did this post make me tear up?? But it did – beautiful writing and a great story! I’m proud of you! It (almost) makes me want to do it!

    • Thanks for those kind words, Evin. I would encourage any woman to do this type of thing. If Tough Mudder is a little extreme, then try something else that challenges you. It’s awesome to realize you are capable of more than you think you are.

  20. Wow! While you inspire me because yes you are one tough mudder, but I must say between freezing and electric shock, I don’t think that I’m inspired to do this. You are more mudder than me!

    Way to go, woman!
    :-)
    Traci

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