Tough Mudder AZ 2012 Recap
After running five half marathons – three in Vibram Sprints – I wanted a bit more of a full-body challenge. I wanted a race that required more than just strong legs and good lungs. I wanted something I’d be proud to finish. Props to Brian Jones, James Schreiner, Michael Wills and Michael Yarnall for running with me. Also thanks to KT Tape and Vin Vallejo of Pro Fitness AZ for the shin splint help and Andrew Hangartner for the extra training.
Tough Mudder isn’t your typical distance race. There were training runs, road races, adventure hikes and weightlifting sessions. There was a lot of helping, more mud than pigs would be comfortable in and enough small rocks to make me rethink my choice of Vibram Sprints.
Then there was the electroshocks that knocked me down, blurred my vision and for a little while, made me thank anyone I could find that it was over. And after months of gym visits, a few cold showers BEFORE training runs and a half day spent crawling on rocks, jumping in and out of a pool and carrying a 14-lb medicine ball for two miles (during my 8.5 mile TRAINING the week prior), the inaugural Tough Mudder Arizona was over.
Here’s my obstacle-by-obstacle recap* of my Tough Mudder run at the former GM proving grounds in Mesa, AZ.
1. Braveheart Charge
Our first obstacle was an eight-foot wall jump, followed by a rousing speech surrounded by about a hundred other potential mudders. We all pledged to make this an adventure and not a race, to help anyone who needed it and to value finishing over our times. After a bunch of grunting, the Star Spangled Banner played and we trotted off for what seemed about a mile run.
2. Kiss Of Mud
All hope of avoiding heavy mud was lost at this obstacle. We crawled, lurched and pushed our way through mud on our bellies, every second wishing the person in front would flail their leg and kick mud into our faces (it happened anyway).
3. Arctic Enema
A 40-foot ice bath is no picnic in any weather. This obstacle required us to walk through a trough filled with ice (a bulldozer gave us a fresh batch), water and some green food coloring that looked like creamy Kool-Aid. Halfway through the chest-high water there was a board lined on top with barbed wire, forcing us to submerge to go forward. The sensation of ice cubes on my head as I came back up was a little unsettling, but I hopped out ready to go.
4. Berlin Walls #1
Only monkeys could scale these 12-foot walls quickly. Each of my team required a little boost to get up the wall, but all made it over quickly. A few people toppled over head first, but no one seemed to get hurt. This was far harder than I thought.
5. Jumpin’ Bale
Jumping between five-foot-high hay bales wasn’t tough as long as you could build up a good head of steam, but with so many other people around you, that was tough. None of my team fell, but we were a bit worried each time we took to the air.
6. Zombie Apocalypse
Beat-up cars, acrid smoke and a whole bunch of tires greeted us here. I punched a windshield, jumped on a roof and tried to break a back window, but my fist isn’t capable of such. I feel better prepared for an outbreak now.
7. Bump N Grind
Crawl over sharp rocks as noted on the map, but I don’t remember it on the course. Or maybe it was just too muddy for the rocks to be a problem. Anyway, I crawled on sharp red rocks LAST weekend as prep, and I’m still sporting scars. So there’s that.
8. Devil’s Beard
Low-slung cargo nets threatened to impede our progress, but as long as we all stayed close, the nets were easy to lift. I kinda wanted to go on top and have people launch me into the air.
9. Boa Constrictor
A hands and knees crawl through sand, then muddy water, then sand. The pipes were too small to float through, and I had to get really skinny to get out. As soon as I figured out to put one knee directly in front of the other, I made it just fine.
10. I don’t remember. Sorry.
11. Bale Bonds
This wasn’t hay, rather a series of small mud hills that looked hay-like. If you can picture the short jumps from Excitebike, you’ll get it. And just like Excitebike, if you lost speed or took a wrong angle, you’d face plant.
12. Twinkle Toes
You’d think that wearing Vibrams would make this easier, right? That my superior grip with my flexible shoes would enable me to channel my inner ballerina and fly right by, yeah? That worked until I got to the middle and the wood dipped, swayed and snaked. Into the water I went. Water was nice, though. Except for the mud.
13. Hold your Wood
This was something like a 3/4 mile trot while carrying a log. Some people teamed up to carry a larger piece, others went solo. My teammates and I each grabbed our own. We ran the first quarter mile, walked the second and ran the third. The carry was awkward, but not terrible.
14. Shake N Bake
We were supposed to be hosed down here, but instead we just crawled in muddy water while live wires hung down and stung us. The shocks weren’t bad, the footing wasn’t great and I was happy to get out.
15. Berlin Walls #2
Crap. More 12-foot walls that I couldn’t get over the first time. My first attempt here resulted in me falling off the wall and stumbling backwards across the support, but I got back up, pushed my way up and bruised my inner arm, forearm, inner thigh and knee doing so. Oh, the drop back down sucked too.
16. Mud Mile
Not really a mile. It didn’t really matter, as this obstacle only served to make the mud and small pebbles in my Vibram Sprints multiply. We trudged through.
17. Mystery Obstacle
I think this was the mud wall. Or maybe it was 20 jumps. Or maybe something with mud and water. I’m sure it sucked.
18. King Of The Mountain
At first I thought we’d all have to fight to the top and then throw all challengers off, but apparently this wasn’t THAT kind of ‘king of the mountain’. We climbed, pushed others and did our best not to trip on the twine trying to hold the hay bales together.
19. Log Jammin’
This was where the team and I started to get frustrated. Because we had run the entire time, save that 1/4 mile during the log jam, we caught up with the earlier heats and were slowed down by longish lines at obstacles. While the cardio break was nice, watching out-of-shape people belly themselves over logs grew tedious. Once we started and realized that the top logs were closer – forcing us to lean BACK to go up – we were slightly more sympathetic. Oh, and the lower logs that we were supposed to go under had barbed wire twisted around them.
20. Walk The Plank
15 or so foot jump into a muddy hole. I hit bottom, but none of my teammates did. A few other participants waited at the top for what seemed like forever, but none of us hesitated. The water did nothing to help with the rocks still in my Vibram Sprints, but it was refreshing.
21. Dirty Holes
Mud slog separated by mud hills followed by more mud slogging. Felt a bit quicksand-ish and thankfully my straps held my shoes on.
22. Spider’s Web
Up and over cargo nets. Easy had we not been in a hurry, but annoying if cold and being pushed, which we were.
23. Berlin Walls #3
This sucked. It ain’t easy for a 5’11”, 215 lb dude to get up and over a 12-foot wall when he’s fresh, let alone when he’s muddy, tired and the wall is super slippery. No casualties, but my shoulders and back screamed after this one.
24. Shocks on the Rocks
I think this was earlier in the race, but I crawled through so many mud pits with barbed wire overhead or in a tube I can’t really remember. Pretty sure this one had tarp down, but that made it harder.
25. Turd’s Nest
Cargo nets are great on the side of ships and below trapeze artists. They catch everything. Problem is, getting out is a ton harder. While we weren’t quite as cramped as the Rebels in Return of The Jedi, falling through was a worry. Our spectator friends told us to log roll through it, but there wasn’t room. I crab- then bear-crawled through.
Super-muddy mountain with few footholds and a whole lot of slippery here. I fell back three times and was saved each time my my teammates. A helpful hand from another mudder got me over the top and then I nearly fell navigating the muddy top. My legs were now stiff.
By far the most feared obstacle, this greased half pipe proved a worthy foe. The idea was to run as fast as you can as far up as you can, then dive forward and hope someone on top grabs you. Once there, completion was just a leg hook away. We watched a few people try to get up this for almost twenty minutes. Hilarity was watching them slide back down, unhurt. A few dudes seemed to be a little shy in grabbing the women to help them up, but each girl I heard said they didn’t care who grabbed what, they just wanted to get over. I did it on the first try.
28. Funky Monkey
I’ve never liked monkey bars. Some people went across bar by bar, others hooked their legs first and crawled upside down and backwards. I made it two bars and then my grip gave out, dropping me into more green, cold water. By this time the sun was gone and clouds had taken over, making the water less refreshing and more uncomfortable.
29. Electroshock Therapy
When I first signed up for Tough Mudder, I figured this was a bit exaggerated. No way they’d hit us with 10,000 volts right? And even if they did, that’s not enough to hurt, right? That’s some BS right there. The line here was long as everyone was scared to get shocked, so the organizers started challenging us to cut in and dive through. We could smell and hear the burns and zaps, making it less than exciting to be almost finished.
Here I watched two guys before me lunge through the live wires, only to fall flat on their faces ten feet away. Since the ground was another mud pit, I figured they had dove. Heh. NOPE. They had been shocked so hard it knocked them over, as I found out seconds later. I made it one step before my first shock and another one before I plunged into the deep mud right behind them. After face planting, I raised my head up only to be shocked AGAIN, only this time it blurred my vision instead of pushing me into the mud. We crawled through the rest of the windy 20 feet to emerge frazzled, but alive.
30. Finish Line
And that was it. I roared when I got up, then almost fell three times as I made my way through the thigh-deep mud around the finish. I had done it. I’m now a Tough Mudder.
I enjoyed my time on the course, but I think I’ll stick to road races in my Vibram Sprints. Were I to run this again, I’d wear something with a bit more sole, like a KSO Trek or possibly a Luna Sandal (iffy because of the mud). There were a lot of sharp rocks on hard ground that made running painful, and I’m a bit bruised today because of that.
Totally worth it.
*As best I can remember. For this article, I checked the official map and wrote down what I remembered, but I know it wasn’t exact. I suppose I should have taken notes, but I couldn’t find anything mud, dirt, water, shock and impact proof. We finished the course in about three hours, fifteen minutes.