“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I usually just paraphrase that and remind myself to do things that scare me because that’s how I grow. If you want to read an inspiring post on getting out of your comfort zone, click here. I’ve done enough runs and triathlons to be pretty familiar with how they work. They definitely take me out of my comfort zone, but not in the way that Tough Mudder got me there. I’m not scared of mud or running 10 miles separately, but that combination with obstacles is another story. Possibly it’s fear of the unknown, but regardless it was wasted energy. I’m proof that anyone can go do a Tough Mudder if they set their mind to it.
Without really knowing what to expect, I spent the summer increasing my strength training and getting advice from my girlfriend’s husband, Tim, who was training for his sixth Tough Mudder. Tim was the perfect mentor, coach and teammate. He calmed nerves leading up to it and gave tips through the obstacles along the course. He let me warm up my frozen fingers on his back, which is above and beyond.
Palmer Mining Company is about 45 minutes outside of Seattle and it’s the perfect location for this type of thing with plenty of space. I didn’t think I’d be that impressed with the VIP parking because I don’t mind walking, but it was so worth it! You get an up close spot that saves time before the race, but it was even better to have the car close by when we were done and I was freezing cold.
Like most races, the music was cranked at the starting line, but each and every wave it was turned off for the National Anthem. I was also impressed with the guy getting us pumped up at the start. He brought everyone together and made the entire wave feel like ‘family’ as we were embarking on this crazy adventure. He elevated the energy and relieved some of my nerves as he reminded us that we were going to conquer the obstacles together.
I knew there were 20ish obstacles and I started off trying to keep track. The 10 miles wasn’t what made me nervous, it was getting through the obstacles. As we ran over some rollers with some steep sections, I wasn’t so quietly hoping this was our first obstacle, hoping to have one checked off and one I could do.
I have no idea if that was an obstacle because I stopped counting relatively early and totally lost track. After the first couple of obstacles, the fear started to dissipate and I was just having fun. It definitely wasn’t because the obstacles got less intimidating, in fact it seemed to be quite the opposite, but I was able to relax a bit and just take them in one at a time.
We crawled under everything from barbed wire to heavy plastic covered in water, also referred to as the birth canal, some required a military crawl, some had you scooting on your back, but they all were a unique challenge. We climbed all sorts of thing. I didn’t make it up the warped wall, but loved ‘the snot rocket’ which was a tube with water gushing down as you tried to climb up it. It was cold, but you were clean at the top and ready for the next muddy challenge. My teammates had to give me a boost up several of the obstacles, certain walls and logs were made for people less vertically challenged. There was also plenty of mud and it was a dark, black mud, making us all look like creatures from the Black Lagoon. Tough Mudder did an exceptional job planning, the course, you would get ridiculously dirty and then get cleaned up with some sort of water obstacle and ready to do it again.
I opted out of the ‘arctic enema’ and I have no regrets about it. I was cold enough already and used the time to chat with some newfound friends while my teammates went through. There were port-a-potties along the course, which was pretty impressive with a few of the spots. They also offered plenty of water stations, some honey stinger gels and waffle cookies. Many of the obstacles had two options, one for the first time participant and the other for the more experienced and the finish was no exception. To the left, there was the electricity for the first timers, I guess an initiation of sorts and to the right there were rings with a huge drop on to mats below. Like all of the obstacles, both choices were intimidating, but they got us all to the same spot and that finish line felt amazing. It usually takes me a few weeks after a serious running event to consider the next one, but that wasn’t the case with Tough Mudder. Pretty much as soon as they gave me my orange headband at the finish line, I was planning on ways to improve next time.
Instead of checking Tough Mudder off my list, I’ll need to make some time to train for another. It’s fun to add some challenges to your run and a blast to challenge your body in new ways. While those are towards the top of the list, my favorite thing about this event is the teamwork. Old friends and total strangers out there helping each other out, it was encouraging on so many levels. Tough Mudder challenges the body and mind as your work your way through the course and gives you a different sense of satisfaction. I love the feeling after a marathon, but it can be a lonely sport. An obstacle adventure is the perfect balance, an opportunity to push your limits with friends and have a blast while doing it. I love to run, but we all can admit that sometimes it’s boring. There’s nothing boring about an obstacle race. It’s a perfect way to work through a training rut and add a little adventure to your fitness regimen. On top of that, it’s a confidence boost to get out of your comfort zone and conquer a new challenge.