5 days ago
Friday, April 29, 2011
I've endured two marathons, the bar exam, Greek family reunions, Bergman films, Kurt Vonnegut, and the disappearance of Vanilla Coke. (Seriously, why'd they get rid of that again?) But nothing, not even the loss of my beloved soft drink, could prepare me for the masochistic insanity that was the Tough Mudder.
I ran the course in New Jersey back in November, 2010 with my buddy Joe, and in case you're wondering why I'm just getting around to blogging about it now, it's because I've finally gotten over my post-traumatic stress disorder. My therapist has urged me over the past several months to post about the race as a way to purge the soul of the horrifying memories of this particular race. No amount of writing could do that, but I figured I might as well share my exploits because they might be good for a chuckle.
The Tough Mudder is a lengthy obstacle course designed by British Special Forces. Our course stretched 12 miles, and by my estimate, 6 or 7 of those miles were through ankle-deep mud. So challenging are the individual obstacles and the course overall that, before you run it, they require you to sign a Death Waiver.
(Mom, sorry for not telling you about the Death Waiver in advance. I figured you'd just worry.)
Every possible fear you might have is exposed and exploited by the 20 or so obstacles waiting for you. Obstacle number 3 on our course was called Walk the Plank, which required a 20 foot plunge into the muddy, freezing waters of late November in New Jersey. It was a balmy 35 degrees when we ran the course, so that should give you some idea of how frakking cold the water was. The shock of it makes it difficult to breathe, so you're doubly spooked about drowning.
One of my favorite obstacles was the Firewalker, where - you guessed it - you get to run through fire. The presence of the Fire Department at the obstacle was reassuring at least. Aside from Walk the Plank, my two least favorite obstacles were the Mystery Obstacle (more on that below) and the Cliffhanger. The Cliffhanger wasn't particularly difficult, as it only involved scaling a slick, dangerously muddy slope, but I ended up losing my footing, flipping in the air, and landing on the side of my head. Not my most graceful moment and not that big a deal really, right?
Unless you've got another EIGHT EFFING MILES TO GO.
As for the Mystery Obstacle. You can tell by its name we didn't know what it was going in to the race. At the starting line, the man on the squawk box directed our attention to an open wooden structure about half a mile away. From that distance, we couldn't really see it. It looked like people were running under it and through tangles of hanging yellow string.
Except it wasn't string. More like wires. Live wires. As in, there was electrical current coursing through them. Around mile 11, after everything else we'd endured, they made us run through LIVE wires. The website has some of the more nasty video of this, and plenty of candids have been posted on Facebook to memorialize the torture.
There was no way to avoid the wires really. I figured the current wouldn't be too bad so I just charged through. I mean, how bad could it really be? I knew we'd signed a Death Waiver and everything, but financially or legally it wouldn't make sense for them to kill any of their runners. They'd get no repeat customers, right?
I don't know how much juice was in those things, but the first jolt made the heart flutter and all my muscles tighten up like Zeus had hurled a thunderbolt from Olympus at me.
And that was only the first jolt.
The second jolt nearly floored me, which wouldn't have been good, because then I would have fallen into the tangle of wires, repeatedly shocked till some brave soul dragged my sorry ass outta there. Later, I heard that happened to a few people, but I was fortunate enough to escape relatively unscathed.
On the whole, I think me and my buddy acquitted ourselves well. We made it around the course in 2.5 hours with minimal complaint, even when there was a legally actionable shortage of water at the rest stations. (Not cool, guys.) After being electrocuted, I said to Joe, "I'll bet we look like the effing hobbits when they were scaling Mount Doom right now." Not my best material but pretty good considering the circumstances.
Joe laughed politely at my joke, paused, and then cackled at something else. I asked him what was so funny, and he turned to me and said in a thin voice, "Why did we do this? Why would we ever do this?"
Why indeed, Joe? Why indeed?
So I'm thinking about signing up for the next one...