Today was finally The Day, The Day we’ve been waiting for: The Tough Mudder. A ten mile endurance course laced with over two dozen military-style obstacles: walls to clamber over, barbed wire to scurry under, tunnels of mud, running through fire, getting electric shocks…you know, just your typical ideal way to spend a Saturday morning. Our friend, Other Kevin (not to be confused with my husband Kevin), invited me and his friend Geno to join him in this adrenaline-fueled frenzy a few months ago. It sounded like fun, and then I told a bunch of people I was going to do it, and then I looked at the website and watched the videos and freaked out, but it was too late: I’d told too many people I was going to do it. (That, incidentally, is not a bad way to accomplish something you’re not sure you’re capable of.)
We learned a few days ago that we’d be in this morning’s first wave, at 8:00 am – lucky us! It means we’d have a shot at avoiding the worst of the heat of the day.
Our team, “Something to Prove”, at 6:15 this morning, punchy before the day’s even begun: me, Other Kevin, Geno. See the orb over Geno’s head? That’s an angel, obviously.
We headed over to Mt. Snow, a ski area here in lovely southern Vermont, to register. They paint your number on your face, the better to identify your body at the morgue, later. Take a look at this pretty face. Take a look at that nice, straight nose. Hold on to that memory.
Aw hell, ya gotta jump over a six and a half foot wall just to get INTO the start corral?
In blue, Geno. To his right, mostly hidden, Other Kevin. Then me. Pretty, pretty me.
announcer: “When I say Tough, you say MUDDER! Tough!”
And we’re off!
First up: climb this here ski slope.
Ah yes, the first of MANY trudges up one of these slopes. This one’s the bunny slope. The rest are wayyyyyy steeper.
I was SO PSYCHED to see My Kevin, bearing my point-and-shoot.
This is Artic Enema: a vat of ice water. It’s the very first obstacle in this course (if you don’t count going up and down the mountain itself an obstacle.) There’s a big fat beam down the middle of it that forces you do submerge yourself completely in the ice water. You come up on the other side and then haul yourself out.
And now, for the After picture:
Aside from the fact that my bandanna’s gone missing, you can’t tell there is anything wrong. But there sure is. See, I knew I couldn’t get under the beam on my first breath. So I jumped in, and came right up, and did a breast stroke to bring myself to that heavy cross beam. It was Effing Cold. I took a deep breath, submerged myself, and launched myself under the beam…only to smack my face, HARD, RIGHT into the beam. Ooops.
But there is no way out of that vat. Gotta go under. I felt for the bottom of the beam, took another breath, got under, and surfaced to see that Geno had hauled himself to the side wall to wait for the girl ahead of him to get out. I followed suit. Next to me was another vat of ice water with teams of people going through. “Hey! You have a bloody nose!” a few of them told me. No shit – I could taste it.
Now, this was the first obstacle in this whole course. We’d gone up about a third of the mountain and back down, and we had only just gotten started. Should I stop? Can I go on? I talked to the medic. Kevin was too far away to see or investigate why I was talking to a medic.
He quizzed me to see if I showed signs of a concussion. Nope. Aw, fuck it, I paid all this money, I’m here, I feel fine, let’s move.
Wiping the blood off. Did it hurt? A little. Not too bad, actually.
Kevin-My-Kevin, in the meantime, had realized that (cough) the course organizers weren’t very organized. Nobody noticed he didn’t have a spectator wrist band (with its $40 price tag), so he wandered all over the mountain, trying to find us and see what we were up to.
The next obstacle we faced (aside from climbing The Entire Mountain, I think) – and not shown here – was to slither on our bellies through a mud pit with barbed wire strung out at intervals over our heads. This was, for some reason, surprisingly easy for me. It helped that I had those knee pads on. I slithered away merrily. And then I ran into a guy wearing a super-cute purple bandanna – mine! and he graciously offered it back to me. Probably because by now, unbeknownst to me, I was looking kinda scary.
Grrrr. Note the mud mustache? Sexxxxxy.
There were a bunch of other obstacles – by no means are they all shown here. There was a set of Berlin Walls – 12 foot walls to scale – which I decided to skip, because I knew that the jounce of the landing would cause me to bleed more, and I was already regularly wiping blood off my face and licking it off my fingers.
In this one you make your way through a submerged tunnel – filled with, you guessed it, mud – for a while til you pop back out. I’m not claustrophobic, so this was fine.
Not knowing where we were, My Kevin wisely took pictures of the other obstacles he found:
The gigantic hay bales to climb over.
The electric eel: slither, through mud, only this time, electrified wires (those little yellow things) are dangling down over you. I nearly wussed out of this one but fell back to my earlier, “Aw fuck it” strategy to propel myself through it. I got a shock – mild – it wasn’t too bad.
Oh man, this one was awesome. Nearly all of us gave up, dropped into the water, and swam – it was just too long a journey. None of our team is in this picture. There were guys in kayaks monitoring the situation.
What else was in here that’s not shown…hauling a log on your shoulder for a while…oh, the one where you leap off a 15’ platform into a pond – I skipped that one, too, because I knew the shock of landing would do bad things to my bloody nose. But in solidarity I submerged myself completely in the pond. Some cool things with rope netting to climb up – other Mudders used their body weight to hold the netting taut while about four or five of us at a time would climb up 20 feet and down the other side. One girl, and a couple of guys, flipped over the top in a super awesome manoeuver that I didn’t want to experiment with in that setting. I went with the tried and true sit on the top and swing one leg over tactic.
Running through fire, sorta. Not really. Just a lot of smoke.
Here’s the one I’m most proud of for pulling off: fifty or so feet of two, two by sixes – so maybe four inches wide – over a pond of lime green water.
Other Kevin and I started at the same time. Geno was right behind.
Off he trotted.
Uhhhh…my beam was SUPER wobbly. That caused my legs to jackhammer. Which no doubt added to the wobbliness of the beam. I nearly gave up and jumped into the water about three times but I just kept inching along. It was truly a mental exercise of being completely, totally wobbly, but just staying present, staying present, staying present. Delicious.
Here I am with Kevin and Geno, having finally made it. Please notice the weird black gangrenous-looking nose I have. It’s dried blood. I’m not aware of it, other than the fact that others are regularly commenting or complimenting me on it.
Here is me at the beginning of…
…and Other Kevin at the end of, the Boa Constrictor – just another random mud-and-gravel-lined tube of nonsense. What else was there…Oh, there was one where’re inching along through the mud in a pitch dark enclosure. They’re playing the sound of booming thunder, and occasionally flashing simulated lightning, plus you’re being hosed down at the same time…and there are electrified wires over you. For that one, if you stayed flat on your belly, you’d be fine.
In the meantime, I should mention, we are regularly hiking up and back down increasingly steep slopes – and that’s not just my tiredness making me think they’re getting steeper – they are getting steeper. We’re all over that damn mountain. I’m calling out all the wildflowers I see – bedstraw, oxeye daisy, st. johnswort, cow vetch…you know, I am nature girl, when I’m not all warriory.
I did, however, skip another set of Berlin Walls, as well as this monkey bars thing where if you let go (which you may, since they’ve helpfully greased some of the bars), you fall into – wait for it – a pit of muddy water. I knew I didn’t have the upper arm strength for it. Kevin and Geno completely rocked that one.
Ah, here we are contemplating the insanity of Everest – a big quarter pipe, slippery as all hell, with a bunch of mostly burly guys, and some chicks, at the top to help. We’re watching our fellow Mudders run like hell to the base and up this thing, and half the time, not getting far enough up to grab hands with the others at the top. THUD – slide. THUD – slide.
“Jeez, I don’t know about this one…”
“Me either…” He went first and nailed it.
Well, like I said, fuck it. Let’s do this thing. (Am I a hottie, or what, by the way?)
OK, I made contact with the folks at the top on my first try – this is great!
Not enough purchase. Only their arms are keeping me here.
I got a leg up, and Other Kevin grabbed it, and three people hauled my sorry ass to the top.
At the top, I saw My Kevin had gotten the whole thing.
Here’s our gang of three, having just gotten down the back of Everest, headed for the very last obstacle:
Electroshock Therapy. More electrified wires, but these babies really pack a punch. We observed any number of people getting knocked right off their feet.
Including Kevin, who started upright, but once shocked, found himself in the by now familiar belly-in-mud position.
But not me: by now, I knew I needed medical attention for my nose. And the sight of a couple of people really struggling to continue, when they’d just gotten knocked to the ground and were having trouble moving, but still getting shocked because those wires hung pretty low…I said, self, you’ve a good day here. You’re done.
So I joined the boys to cross arm-in-arm under the finish line.
And then we had a beer, and I went to the first aid building where they attempted to pry the blood off my nose and told me to go to a real doctor. We went back to Other Kevin’s house, ruined their bathroom by showering, laughed about the day, and ate. And then My Kevin and I went to the emergency room.
That’s me, with my hospital band next to my Tough Mudder band. Yeah!
Me in the ER. This one is probably the best shot for showing the swelling.
I got a CT scan.
And guess what? I have a broken nose! Multiple fractures! I’m on pain meds and antihistamines, and once the swelling goes down, I’ll go see a specialist about having my face re-broken so it can be set right. Yee haw!
All in all? Fun! Would I do it again? Naw. Right now it’s feeling like hey, I did what I set out to do. And with a broken nose! Hah!