Tough Mudder Preview

You haven’t done enough hills and the ones you have done are too small anyway.

You will break your ankle. Unless you’re lucky and only roll it several dozen times.

Over 20% of the trial run people didn’t/couldn’t complete all of the obstacles. And the event was only 2.4 miles with 6 obstacles.

Scared yet?!

Yesterday was the trial run of the Tough Mudder race at Bear Creek Resort and I was “lucky” enough to be one of the 100 people that got in to the trial. (Although only about 50 actually showed up.) If you haven’t been to Bear Creek before, it is a ski resort, so parking will not be a problem on race day. You may have to walk a little distance from your car, but there are plenty of lots.

Registration – Very easy. The first line you grabbed a waiver and signed your life away then went to a choice of 3 other lines based on your last name. You received a folder that included the course map with obstacles for the day, start times, and your number. Next you went to body marking, where a volunteer proceeded to mark your FOREHEAD! I guess they figure there will be times when that is the only part of you they can see. They had a brief meeting explaining the course and where we would be going to start, the OO (Opt Out option for any obstacle), throwing up the “X”, (a sign that you or someone near you is injured and can’t continue), and what they generally expected of us for the day.

Course – They sent us off in 3 waves, separated by about 7 minutes each time. The original info we were sent said that we would just be running on the trails around the lake and hitting the obstacles there. Well, that changed to become going up Kodiak and then Sasquatch (one of the expert slopes and take it from someone who has skied down it, the steepest hill in the park.) I knew it was part of the race, but figured I had 2 ½ more weeks until I had to deal with it. Sasquatch, while obviously steep, was very rutted and the type of grass was even quite slippery even though it was dry. After suffering to the top, we had a nice about 1 mile of straight running. It was down a side slope that was pretty flat for a bit before you dropped down and then turned into the woods. All of the ski slopes are very heavily rutted and have random holes. I saw/heard a few ankles ending runners’ days during this portion. Next you went into the woods on a nice, but narrow trail. It was definitely only 1 person wide, but well packed and only a few rocks here and there. When you came out of the woods the obstacles began.

Ball Shrinker – This is a set of ropes used to cross water. If you have done this before in a race or ropes course, there is usually a rope for your hands and a rope for your feet. (or in the military a v-shape with a separate rope for each hand and one for the feet). However, there was only 1 set with 2 ropes. There was one set of just a top rope and a few sets of just a bottom rope. I tried the 2 rope approach to avoid the water as long as possible, but I don’t have a strong core and the ropes were not very taught, so it didn’t last long. The volunteers were encouraging us to just get on the bottom rope with our backs in the water and go hand over hand across. This definitely proved to be a faster technique than my original one.

Underwater Tunnels – The tunnels were actually barrels floating on top of the water. I believe there were 5 to go under. They explained at the start that they expected us to go under each one and come back up before attempting the next one because the water is only waist deep and we can stand. (if this is a race and the goal is to get to the end I’m going to do whatever it takes, but more on that later.) The first barrel I just went under and then back up because the water was very cold and I had not been completely submerged yet. The others I did in groups of two just feeling for the barrels while I was under the water to make sure I didn’t come up and get stuck. I think I can go race day with only surfacing once, but that also depends on whether there are other competitors in the way or not.

Walk the Plank – We were told it was going to be a 15’ drop and we would only be in the water for about 30’ before we would get out. I am not a fan of jumping from heights, so I was glad to test this one before race day to build my confidence. Don’t be worried because it was more like 8’ to 10’, and closer to the 8’ side. However, after swimming for 50 meters and still being nowhere near the end of the lake I was quite dismayed. I am not a swimmer and opt to compete in duathlon for that exact reason, so swimming in trail shoes and normal running clothes was not fun. There were other people with a lot more clothes on then me, so I can imagine what they were thinking. If this is their actual course it won’t work. Far too many people who have signed up for the race cannot finish this swim. However, later in the race, as we looped back around I saw that the people further back were doing what we thought the race was: they jumped off, swam around the dock and were back on land in about 30’ so don’t be alarmed abut race day if you are not a swimmer. There were also numerous scuba people in every body of water, including the part that was only waist deep.

Berlin Walls – If you have been to the website, they a show a picture of a 12’ log wall. We should be so lucky! There were 5 walls, they were only about 9.5’ – 10’, but they had sheer faces with nothing to use to climb. The first on I could jump close to the top and pull myself up, but having no upper body strength and just having to go through that swim, it took every last bit of my arms to pull off and there were 4 more after that. (it won’t be that bad on race day because I won’t have to swim that far first). The next wall I stopped and helped a few guys over while I tried to figure out how to get over. Some offered to give me an arm after I helped them to the top, but unless they were going to curl my body weight it wouldn’t work because I didn’t have any strength left to help pull myself. I ended up jumping up, grabbing the top with my hands and swinging my left let to the top and catching my ankle on the top. This was just enough to then swing my leg over and pull the rest of my body up with my leg. After helping the guys out over the next couple of walls, I stayed with this technique. I think it will work well for me on race day. The problem is, for those of you who haven’t met me, I am about 6’3” with freakishly long arms (7’+ wingspan), and I have a very good running vertical leap so my technique works for me, but probably won’t for 99% of the population. More on this later, but we were asked questions at the end of the race and this obstacle seemed to be the #1 complaint. Maybe 2% of the race will be able to get over all 5 walls without any assistance.

The Killa Gorilla – We just went up a short steep hill and then back down. The website shows 5 ups and 5 downs, but we only did 3 and 3, but there is more space f they choose to make it 5 and 5 on race day. Surprisingly I was running up each one but my quads were so trashed, I was afraid that if I ran down I wouldn’t be able to support myself. Then there was about a ½ mile straight run to the fire and the end.

Fire Walker – The section they had was only about 30 meters long, short enough that you could hold your breath and close your eyes and not have to deal with smoke inhalation. Looking at the website, it appears that you run through a small field-like area where the entire thing is ablaze. They way it was done yesterday had piles of straw burning with a narrow, clear path down the middle they told you to run down. However, we were single file and a little spread out; come race day people will be at least two wide and probably a lot more coming down that straightaway, especially since the finish is on the other side. They will have to make it wider or the straw not as thick since people will have to run on it.

Finish – After the race they had volunteers handing us water and then people with questionnaires to ask us. They were smart enough to not make us do the writing, but rather have the interviewer do it all. They wanted to know best/worst obstacles, how we heard about it, if we were doing the actual race, and then anything else we wanted to give input on. They are trying very hard to have this race go well and it shows. The biggest complaint I heard was about the walls, so something my change with them by race day. Those of near the front complained about the long swim too, but that has already been addressed as an error and taken care of.

This race is going to fun, but very challenging. If you are going as team and are out there to have fun, it will be a blast. If you are truly competing, it is going to be tough, and if you survive, it will be a race you will be telling tall tales about the rest of your life.

My only other problem with the race is that they keep mentioning it’s not a race and it is about camaraderie and if you received the recent email, they are only going to be timing a select few at the front of the pack and you can submit your times on the honor system when you finish. That is fine and if that is truly the case, then don’t time anyone, don’t have awards or results, but most importantly don’t have a race at the end of the season that you are calling the world championship and people need to qualify to get in. Unfortunately there are people out there who will finish in 5 hours, but say they did it in 2 hours just to look good and possibly qualify. I am not making any pretenses about doing this for fun; I am doing it to win. I most likely won’t, because I am not the best on hills (so why did I sign up for this), but I better be near the top. And if a person who is 4’10”, 450 lbs, who can’t walk to the fridge without getting winded ends up ahead of me on the results because they timed themselves and say they went faster than me, I will be mighty upset. Ok, rant done.

This race is going to be fun, scary, painful, and exhausting, but a tale to tell when it is over. Yesterday it took me just over 30 minutes to go 2.4 miles and I am cut up on my ankle, hamstring, and wrists, I have splinters in both hands, my elbow is swollen and has a huge bruise, and I have a nasty bump and bruise on my forehead. I can’t wait for May 2nd!!!!

This article written by Randy Latza.

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