Tag Archives: SoCal

The Day Tough Mudder Kicked My Ass

19 Jul

Prologue:   From the picture above, you can see that we finished. However, if you knew me six years ago (or even three years ago really), Tough Mudder is an event that I would never even fathom wanting to participate in, let alone finish. If you had asked me back then if I wanted to do it, I would have said, “H.E. to the double L to the NO!” And quite honestly, there would have been no amount of money to convince me to engage in such a grueling physical activity. And if for some otherworldly reason there was an incentive shiny enough to motivate me to attempt it, I surely would have failed part way through it. And with that, I give you my Tough Mudder experience…..

This was just before our heat started

We stayed in a cabin up on Big Bear Mountain the night before. Of course we wanted to be close to the start of the event, but more so, I wanted to have time to adjust to the altitude. When I went to Big Bear as a kid, I had an altitude sickness SNAFU, and wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t have a repeat incident. Naturally, I had a really hard time sleeping the night before because I was nervous about attempting something I had never done before, and also because I was sleeping on an air mattress, and every time you turn over on one of those things, it squeaks you awake. But I got just enough sleep to feel rested, and the adrenaline made up for the rest.

The morning of, we packed up the car and headed down to the course. The weather was a tad chilly when we left the cabin, which concerned us because we knew the arctic enema (i.e. the ice bath) was the first obstacle of the course but as soon as we arrived and parked, the weather had gotten drastically warmer. So much so that I worried my sunscreen application might not cut it. But alas, that quickly became the least of my worries once I saw several packs of men and women who looked like they were straight off the set of ‘300’.  

We got our bib numbers, got written on with permanent marker (ew!), double knotted our shoe laces, and headed straight for the port-a-potties to have one last pee before our heat started. Part of it was actually needing to go because I guzzled a lot of water  but part of it was having the “nervous pee”, as all CrossFit folk are privy to. Of course, the line for the bathrooms was atrocious, and our heat was going to take off before we would make it to the front, so I held it. And it was crappy . . .  until the ice obstacle.

My whole team jumped in before me, and that’s when I knew I had to, too. It’s not the kind of obstacle you dip your toe into either. You have to get in there fast, and get out even faster. When I first jumped in, the ice water went up to my waist but with a wooden post in the middle of the tank (lined with barbed wire on the top), I realized I would have to completely submerge my entire body under the iced water to get out. I hesitated for a second, and then all of a sudden it was as if there was a little team inside of me controlling everything, and one of them hit a big red “JUST DO IT” button. I suddenly found myself rocketing up through ice cubes on the other side of the post, clambering and whimpering to get out the same way a cat does when you try to give it a bath. There was a guy in front of me struggling to climb out, and in the interest of full disclosure (and in complete survival mode), I had a flash fantasy about pushing him off so I could get out of that thing! I have no idea what it feels like to have a heart attack but how I felt afterwards is what I imagine it would might be like – I was jumping around like a fish out of water, wincing, and suddenly the urge to pee had completely disappeared. I knew at that moment that I had to push myself to complete every obstacle on the course.

After that, it was steep hill after steep hill after steep hill. At some point early on in the course, I was slowly jogging / walking it by myself. It’s not that my team didn’t care about me, it’s that they wanted to go hard, and so they did. But they always waited for me at every obstacle. Around mile 3, our team stopped at a water station and one of my mates said, “Uh Rebecca, I think you need to go to the medic tent.” That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear when you feel no pain, because you know the moment you look at whatever they’re seeing, the psychological freak out begins. So I looked down (where he was looking) and saw that my left shoe had blood pooling out of the heel. It turns out my New Balance minimus had chafed my skin and created a wound on my achilles, and it was bleeding . . . a lot. So, I got some gauze and tape on it, which lasted for all of 1 mile, at which point I made up my mind that I was going to finish the 8+ more miles with rocks, dirt and whatever else in my wound. This was a pretty big decision for me – to give you an idea of how big, let’s just say that my nickname growing up was “crybaby.”

For the rest of the course, I sucked it up as best as I could. I wasn’t able to run, and I certainly couldn’t keep up with anyone in my group. I had to stop and rest a lot. I have a herniated disk in my lower back and the inclines were brutal to that area but I knew I had to finish. As guilty as I felt about slowing my team down, I knew that in order to achieve the honor of being called a Tough Mudder, I was going to have to listen to my body very carefully, and obey. At one point during the course while I was carrying a log up a steep hill, I took a rest to stretch my back and a really sweet guy asked if I was okay. I told him I was and that I just needed a rest. He offered to carry my wood up to the top. As tempting as that was, and believe me I considered it, I told him, “No thank you. I have to do this on my own.” Saying that out loud gave me the strength I needed to keep going. He gave me a nod of respect and went on his way.

With each mile, it got harder and harder to fake my enjoyment. At about mile 5, my sole goal became about finishing. I felt like a loser for huffing and puffing, and as such, I found I was verbally beating myself up. I felt envious of the people who were at ease climbing the hills but then something dawned on me: You really have to choose what works for you in order to complete / achieve something. Some people can sprint, some people have to jog, and some people need to walk. You have to make peace with your plan of attack, and so I did. The point is that I was out there, doing the best that I could. 

The highlight of the course (for me) was when we were climbing the Black Diamond hill (pictured above), and a guy next to me said, “Now I know how Frodo felt when he was climbing Mount Doom.” Everyone starting laughing really loud, including myself. It was a moment of laughter I think we all needed.

Obstacle after obstacle, mile after mile (about 12 miles total), we finally neared the end of the course. I don’t know how I did it, but I made it. The last obstacle before the finish line was electric shock. My CrossFit mate Lynzee and I ran through it together, and it was the most bizarre experience of my life. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would inflict that on themselves but seeing that black inflated “Finish” on the other side of the wires was enough to make me go through with it. And we made it out… and that was it. We were done. I finished. It was surreal, and quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve have ever done. But the feeling of accomplishment was worth the 5+ hours it took me to complete it.

Thank you to my CrossFit 310 team for letting me tag along on such a crazy, yet difficult adventure. I’m inspired by every single one of you.

Bucket List: Tough Mudder

31 May

{Photo courtesy of Tough Mudder}

In a little over a month, myself and a group of others from CrossFit 310 will be participating in the SoCal Tough Mudder up in Big Bear. I’m really excited about it because it’s been on my Bucket List for some time! However, I’m really nervous because it’s recommended that participants train a few months in advance, and as you can probably assume from my Zone post, I haven’t really had much time to sleep, much less train for 11 miles (the most I’ve ever ran is 3.1 miles). So naturally,  I was left wondering what kind of options I have to make this work. Well, in addition to a running plan my friend Lauren created for me, I also found a great pillar article on Outside magazine’s website on what to know for Tough Mudder, which I found extremely useful for noobz like myself. It’s called “Yes You Can: Run a Tough Mudderby Erin Beresini. With the help of Andy Thom (a six-time TM vet), Alex Patterson (TM’s Chief Marketing Officer), and Jim Nix (a TM coach) her tips featured below soothe my anxiety:

10. Avoid cotton
“You’re gonna be wet, you’re going to be fully submerged at some point, and it’s going to be cold,” Thom says. Stay away from cotton, which will soak up the water and mud, dragging you down and keeping you chilled. Instead, opt for materials that wick away moisture, like Dri-FIT or COOLMAX, and fit closely to the body to reduce chafing. That said, there is no dress code, and costumes are encouraged, so if you want to go shirtless or wear a tutu, do it. Just remember to bring a change of clothes so you can enjoy the post-event party dry and warm.

9. Run
“If you lack the cardio aspect of conditioning, you’re gonna struggle,” says Nix. There’s no rule against walking, but if you want to finish strong, you’ll have to train to run. The events incorporate 10 to 12 miles of running up and down mountains, across mud, and through obstacles—i.e. not in a straight line. Tough Mudder says you should be able to run five miles, Nix recommends working up to eight, and Thom recommends 10. The first half of our 12-week training plan will focus on tuning in your cardio.

8. Wear gloves
“A good pair of gloves with open tips so the water drains out of them will help you grab onto things when you’re wet and doing the obstacles,” says Patterson. Weight lifting or cycling gloves will protect your hands and improve your grip on obstacles like monkey bars or rope climbs. Several competitors swear by Mad Grip gloves with the fingertips cut off.

7. Enlist friends
“Most importantly, get yourself a crew of awesome friends—people who are gonna laugh when they fall, and get back up,” Patterson says. Put your team together early. That way, you can help each other through workouts. The typical team size is between five and 10 people. If you can’t convince anyone to join you, don’t fret. “If you’re alone, you’ll end up joining a team at the first obstacle,” says Patterson. “People who didn’t know each other before they started have made lifelong friends from having done a Tough Mudder together.”

6. Train outside
Tough Mudder requires functional strength to lift yourself over walls, carry a log, or slither under barbed wire. Create muscle memory by imitating these movements outdoors with plyometric exercises. “Don’t sit at the air-conditioned or heated gym and do bench presses and curls,” Thom says. “Mimic obstacles. Go to your local playground and climb around on the monkey bars. Get out in the fresh air, run up a hill, or climb a freaking tree.”

5. Get wet
It will be cold. Don’t let event day be the first time you face the mind-numbing shock of plunging into icy liquid. “Train in the elements as much as possible,” Nix says. That includes training outside on cold mornings and in the rain. Or you could do what Thom did in his now infamous Tough Mudder training video (below), and start your workout by dumping a bucket of cold water over your head.

4. Wear old, grippy shoes
“Wear an old pair of sneakers, especially a pair that has trail treads,” Patterson says. Pick a pair that isn’t completely beat, but that you don’t mind getting permanently stained.

3. Fundraise
Every registered Tough Mudder gets a fundraising page to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization that provides services to injured service members to help them transition between active duty and civilian life. If you raise more than $150, you’ll get a $25 discount on your registration fee. To date, Mudders have raised over $2.3 million for the organization.

2. Embrace the insanity
Conquering the unknown is part of what bonds Tough Mudders together, and every race has one mystery obstacle that you can’t prepare for by looking at the course map. You will fall, you’ll look ridiculous, and at some point, you’ll probably be scared. Enjoy it. People will be watching. “After the race, we’ll grab a beer, and stand and laugh as people come through Electroshock Therapy,” Thom says.

1. Don’t stress
If for some reason you don’t want to complete an obstacle (ex: you can’t swim, and the obstacle requires jumping off of a platform into a pond), it’s OK. You can run around if need be. Just know that to qualify for the World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour challenge in which competitors complete as many loops of a Tough Mudder course as possible, you should be able to do all of the obstacles.

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