Who’s a Tough Mudder? That’d be me. And my beautiful partner in crime, Fiona:
18 kilometres, 28 obstacles, 15,000 participants, mud, electricity, ice and a lot of half-naked, slippery people.
I was terrified to begin with. We pulled into the carpark at about 7am, and there were already thousands of people milling around, dance music playing and smoke in the distance. My blood pressure was through the roof, and large mobs of people coupled with the prospect of imminent death did nothing to help the situation. The course was set up at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, which is a very scenic place to be when you’re not shitting your pants. I was terrified right up until the time they herded us into the starting ring. With so many participants, they had to send us off in waves every fifteen minutes – several hundred people per wave. They played a bit of Back In Black to pump us up, and that calmed me down a little. Nothing like some AC/DC to soothe the nerves. They made us get down on one knee to say the Tough Mudder pledge, then counted us down and out the gate. No more nerves!
We ran five or six kilometres, made it over a series of walls (with help from some brawny looking lads), crawled through gravel and cargo netting, and at that point decided we were doing GREAT. Prematurely. We turned a corner and between two refrigerator trucks found ourselves confronted by a pair of skip bins full of ice and anti-freeze. They call it the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. You leap in waist deep, duck headfirst under a wooden barrier, emerge out the other side and climb out. The whole experience took less than a minute, but the effects of the cold lasted a good fifteen minutes. I had the weirdest pins and needles sensation from the waist down, and Fi couldn’t feel her legs at all. Luckily we had a bit of a run before the next obstacle – Walk the Plank:
Climb up and leap off a four metre platform, then swim to the other side. The climb: easy. The leap: scary, but easier with Fi holding my hand. The swim: near death experience. It was only fifty yards or so, but it was freezing, we were fully clothed and fatigued, and it was fresh water not happy-floaty seawater. Another ten yards and I’d have died right there.
After that there were more walls, a lot of mud, fire, some hills and a lot of running. Fiona made it all the way across the Twinkle Toes beam, but I slipped after a couple of feet and smacked into the drink. I thought I was going great guns on the monkey bars, but again lost my hold and face planted into the pond. I ended up with a lot of questionable fluid in my lungs and sinus cavities.
Surprisingly, I found it easier than expected. I was fully prepared for broken bones and panic attacks and tears, but I guess once the adrenalin kicked in nothing was as scary as I’d imagined. Not even claustrophobic death holes:
Alice in Wonderland (how come I can’t embed videos?)
Also, challenges like scaling four metre walls became a piece of cake with burly lads hoisting you up one side and more burly men lowering you down the other. I was manhandled so much I’m pretty sure I’ve contracted an STD. Most of my fellow Mudders were helpful and encouraging, but there were some disappointing handfuls that obviously had their finishing times in mind and were happy to push past whoever was in their way. At one point we were pondering how to get over a wall, when a couple of boys asked if we could move over so they could get a run up. Fiona said of course we’ll move, but maybe you could give us a hand up first? They looked a bit sheepish and dutifully complied.
The worst aspect was the waiting times at some obstacles. With so many participants, there were about three bottle necks with people milling around getting cranky and cold. Fiona and I waited for about thirty minutes in waist-deep mud for our turn on the balancing beams, and by the time we got to Everest (a four metre greased half-pipe to run up) the waiting time was ninety minutes. We made an executive decision and skipped it – I trained for a lot of obstacles, but queuing was not one of them.
Somewhat disappointingly, no injuries to speak of. Fiona bruises quite easily and on Sunday looked like she’d just stepped out of the UFC. I could plummet over Niagara Falls in barrel without raising a mark, which is irritating because I have a big egg on my shin and myriad other owies that would look mighty impressive if my body would only give me the satisfaction. Having said that, my entire upper body was one big muscle tear on Monday, and driving my manual car to work was more excruciating than Tough Mudder itself.
Finally, I need to give a HUGE shout out to my homegirl Amelie, whose badass effort in Vermont last year inspired me to do the same thing. I never would have done this if I hadn’t read about it on her blog.