Socal Tough Mudder 2011

As the Norcal Tough Mudder’s race this weekend, I have finally gotten around to posting about my tough mudder that I ran 5 months ago. On May 29th, 2011 I completed Tough Mudder. What is Tough Mudder? Well, I’m glad you asked. Tough Mudder is an event that is held around the country, and now the world. Each event is 10-12 miles long, and “tests toughness, fitness, strength, stamina, and mental grit all in one place and all in one day” with a wide variety of different obstacles, and creating situations which invoke primal fears of the participant. Tough mudder is by far the most difficult physical challenge I have ever done in my life.

The desire to run Tough Mudder came after I had run the San Diego Mud Run last Halloween (2010). The San Diego Mud Run, sponsored by the Skyline Church, a mere 5K (roughly 3 miles) was hardly a challenge and didn’t really involve too much effort, although 2 of my teammates were ill, making their experience much more miserable. I had a great time at the mud run, but I wanted to find something more challenging and would require training.

Enter Tough Mudder. I heard of Tough Mudder from my friends, and seeing that the course was originally 7 miles, I figured it would be a lot of fun, and wouldn’t require that much more training, so I signed up at the end of my winter break. I thus began the training process. Even though I regularly go to the gym, I now had more purpose in working out and adapted my workouts in order to prepare for the physical obstacles that were looming in the distance. I also started running on the beach to build up my endurance to 7 miles. During this time, I also felt that running Tough Mudder by myself might be a little lonely, so I began asking around to see if anyone else would like to do this event with me and found out that Tim H.’s cousin was also running the event, but on the 28th. With the help of his cousin and my persistence, we managed to convince Tim to sign up and start training.

Now this is where things started going wrong. Since Tim’s cousin was running on the Saturday, Tim signed up for the Saturday race, meaning that I would need to swap dates. No problem, I can do that. I went on the website to change the dates, and everything went well until I found out that I would have to shell out an extra 80 dollars, on top of the 110 I already paid to do the run on Sunday. Surely there must have been a mistake, since the website said that it only cost 30 dollars to change dates. I emailed Tough Mudder and found out that they also include the difference of price between the 2 days. Saturday is always 20 dollars more expensive than Sunday, and I was changing the dates after the price had gone up. While I did want to run with friends, I also didn’t want to pay an extra 80, so I decided I would wait to decide. Then Tim decided to get a new job and get engaged, meaning that he no longer had the time to train or do Tough Mudder, meaning that even if I changed dates, I would no longer be running with anyone I actually knew. ‘Oh well, I’ll just run on Sunday’ I told myself, as I had signed up alone, and you really only do these things for yourself, so I decided to stay with my Sunday start time. Due to my excitement for the event, I would constantly check the website for updates, when I found out that Tough Mudder would extend the course to 10 miles as opposed to the original 7. 10 miles is only 3 miles longer, so I figured I would train even harder.

A couple weeks later, my right wrist started hurting when I worked out, and I kept telling myself that it would heal. That never happened, and instead the pain got worse and my wrist would continually hurt throughout the day. It was difficult to even drive to work and school in my stick-shift vehicle. Relief from the pain only came when I wore a brace that prevented any motion. I went to my friend Ben F. who is an accomplished physical therapist to check out my wrist, and he diagnosed my wrist as a ligament issue, where my Triquetrum was not aligning correctly and was grinding against the other carpal bones. I was told that I would not be likely to run Tough Mudder and that I should stop working out and to allow my wrist to heal, which would take approximately 6-8 weeks. That’s no problem, the event is 2 and a half months away, which is approximately 10 weeks, thus giving me 2-4 weeks to train again and I would be able to run it without any issues. So I waited…and waited…and waited. Weeks passed by, and the pain appeared to be getting worse, and I had to switch almost all activities to my left hand to avoid excruciating pain in my right wrist. The event was 3 weeks away, and I hadn’t worked out nor had I been running, so I reluctantly decided to change my start time to September for the Norcal Event. I felt miserable, as I had been blabbering non-stop “Tough-mudder-this’ and “Tough-mudder-that” to everyone that I had contact with for the past 6 months, and if I didn’t go through with the run, then I would be a complete phony. While attempting to change the date, I discovered that the website would not let me change my event! What the heck was going on?! I emailed Tough Mudder again, and found out that they do not allow changes within 30 days of the event. This is just great, I can either do the run and be the slowest person there, or I can just not do the run and lose 110 dollars. I had no idea what to do and decided to just wait it out. Then disaster struck, less than a week before the run I got very sick from the all-nighters I was pulling to complete the lab reports for my Recombinant DNA lab class. Now, when I say ‘sick,’ I mean so sick that you can’t breathe, so sick that eating is difficult, so sick that you can’t even sleep in fear of drowning in phlegm and snot. Not doing the run became a very tantalizing concept.

To the dismay of my body, I decided to do the run and here’s how my weekend shaped out. On the 28th, I drove up to Irvine for a going-away Bar-be-que for Fon C. and Vanessa H. I then slept over at Fon’s and only got 5 hours before having to wake up at 6 from a hacking cough and snot storm. After getting ready, I proceeded to drive 80 miles to Tough Mudder, in Running Springs, California. Before I went, I checked the weather like any sensible person would do. The forecast claimed 55 degrees, but when I arrived, my car sensor began blinking 36 degrees at the 7000 ft base. Surely something had to be wrong with my car’s temperature gauge, but as soon as I got outside of the car, I realized that my car was not malfunctioning. No matter, I donned my swimming trunks, long sleeve underarmor, wrist brace and vibram 5-finger treksports, ate a cough drop and checked in.

Having the latest start time of 10:50, I dropped my stuff off at the bag drop and attempted to warm up for the now 10 mile run. Before we started, we honored the American Flag while the National Anthem was played, and then the MC made us repeat the Tough Mudder Pledge which goes: As a Tough Mudder I pledge that:

  • I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge
  • I put teamwork and camarderie before my course time
  • I do not whine – kids whine
  • I help my fellow Mudders complete the course
  • I overcome all fears

With that being said, we started the event. Right out of the gates, there were 5 snow blowers blasting icy cold water into our entire bodies, soaking us before we had run half a mile. After running a little while longer, we then climbed a steep hill, and were met by the “Boa Constrictor” which is a set of tubes which participants must crawl through. The difference between these tubes and others are they are so narrow that it is impossible to crawl with your legs and they are filled halfway with ice cold water. In order to get through these tunnels, you have to pull yourself entirely with your arms. We then began climbing another hill, where I had the opportunity to talk with another ‘Mudder’ who was telling me that his 3 other teammates couldn’t run with him because they had gotten into a car accident on the way to the event, and one of the girls had broken her leg from the accident due to her not wearing a seat belt, thus he was running the event by himself as well.

After climbing the hill, we ran down the hill towards the ‘Chernobyl Jacuzzi’ which consisted of 3 tubs of water with 2 large logs going across. The tubs are filled with ice and water, and we had to climb in, and swim underneath the logs. So if you managed to get through the first 2 miles without getting wet, this obstacle ensured that you got entirely wet in freezing water. We all grabbed thermal blankets and continued our run, where we past signs saying ‘this is the finish line for warrior dash.’ We then had to hurdle over 20 logs, and then climb yet another hill, where at the top, we were met with a fire obstacle, which the creators had started a smokey fire in a low structure that we had to crawl through. Once we past the smoke filled chamber, we were presented with the incline and decline monkey bars, which some of the handholds were greased. Due to my wrist injury, I had to just jump into the water and wade across. We ran up some more hills, and then got to the wood carrying check point, where each person grabs a log, and hikes it up and down a steep hill. During this, one of the other mudders stared at his hands, and said ‘aw crap…this can’t be good.’ Taking a peek at his fingers, they had turned blue, and I suggested he start pumping his hands and heat them up. Up until that point, I didn’t even think about checking my hands, and when I did, I realized that my fingers were starting to turn blue, at which point I started trying to pump my hands like crazy and put them in my armpits. It was very difficult to pump my fingers, and the fact that they were turning blue I would later learn that I had gotten a mild case of hypothermia.

Afterwards, we faced another water obstacle. This obstacle was to get into the lake, and swim underneath 4-5 floats. This was actually one of the easier obstacles as the temperature of the lake water was warmer than the actual outside air. We then ran to the next checkpoint, which was a wire bridge where we had to shimmy across. I got a quarter of the way across, when the person in front of me stopped, and was struggling to keep his balance, and after a few minutes of waiting in the bitter cold, I decided to jump into the lake and swim to the other side. Once there, we ran to the next obstacle, which was to climb a 15 foot structure, and then jump into the lake. This obstacle was the one that I was dreading the most, as I am afraid of heights and free falling. Yes, even though I have gone skydiving, the fear of heights and free fall is still paralyzing. But instead of just waiting and looking, I jumped in. The scary part, was that my feet hit the bottom of the lake, which could have been devastating if I got injured. After jumping in, we swam 50 yards across, and got to a tent where we could warm up. This was possibly the worst idea, as it was so cold, that no one wanted to leave the tent. I was in there for a few minutes, when I realized that if I didn’t get out, I would never finish the race, so I spent the next 5 minutes frantically trying to get past the mass of bodies.

Upon exiting the tent, I was met with a blast of icy cold air, and I realized that the time I spent in the tent trying to get warm, actually made me feel even worse when I continued the course again. I was so cold, that I started sprinting in order to bring my body temperature back up. I then went up another hill and screamed at the top, and then had to shuffle my way down. On the way down, there were some obstacles that we had to climb up over and go underneath. We reached a point where they set up a snowboarding half pipe, which we had to scramble our way up and then climb down. By this point, it was impossible for a lot of people to get the momentum to get up and get a handhold at the top and then pull themselves up, so those of us that could would stay at the top to help the others up. after this, we hiked down some more, and then were met with scaling another hill that was much steeper than any I had ever seen. This slope was steeper than stairs and went on for more than 100 ft. On the way up, I noticed that all of the plants had at least 0.5 cm of frost on each blade of grass, stem, or leaf. By this point, my legs were exhausted and constantly cramping. I had been aching for a banana or orange, but every time I got to a check point, they told me that they had run out, but the next check point would have some. Anyways, I finally finished that beast of a hill, and then ran down the hill, where we then had to climb another hill to go on a giant water slide, that shot us down into another reservoir of water, where we swam across the lake, and then had to climb out and continue down the hill.

I was hoping, no I was praying that this was the last downhill, but no, we had to climb another hill and at the top, we had to scale 4 12ft walls, and which point it started snowing. After completing this, we ran down the hill through ‘mud mile’ which is just a mile of muddy terrain. We then sprinted through more snow blowers, and we could finally see the finish line a mile away. We had to go through a steep incline, and crawl underneath a low bridge. At this point, I was just glad to see the finish line, where I faced the last obstacle, electroshock therapy. This obstacle has 2 wooden frames that go for 30 feet and have hundreds of yellow wires that hang all the way to the water filled bottom. Some of these wires deliver 10,000 volts, while others have lesser charges. No matter how big or strong you are, if you are hit with 10,000 volts, your body will contract causing you to fall. While sprinting towards this obstacle, I realized if I got shocked while wearing my wrist brace that had a metal insert, I could sustain serious damage, so I started ripping at the brace to get it off, having to resort to using my teeth. I ran through the sea of yellow wires without getting seriously zapped, and I thought I was home free, but right as I stepped out of the danger zone, a wire caught my right arm, and I went down while still running, causing me to spin around. But no matter, I had finally finished the race, as was met with an orange headband of victory, a shirt, loads of protein shakes and other health food stuffs, and a dos equis beer. But the best part was that they had boxes and boxes of bananas, glorious glorious bananas. After running 10 miles, and passing 5 checkpoints and asking for bananas but being turned down at every one, I finally got my banana.

I realize that there were multiple psychological obstacles that we endured during the race. While climbing the hills, we saw trucks filled with runners that could just not continue being driven down the mountain, causing us to wonder if we could complete the course. The warming tent was another psychological obstacle, since it is very hard to motivate yourself to finish when you’re so cold that you can barely move your fingers.

Although I have hiked more than 30 miles with a 70lb backpack over rough terrain in the yellowstone mountains, hiked half dome, lived in the back country for a month, gone skydiving among other things, this was by far the most difficult physical challenge that I had ever done. Not only was I injured, unconditioned, and sick, but the weather became a factor as well. Even the tough mudder organizers said that this was a crazy event. The previous day had beautiful weather, with weather being 85 degrees and blue skies, the Sunday race was dark and gloomy, with temperatures sinking 10 degrees below freezing and 60 mph winds. The organizers were debating on canceling the sunday event, but decided to keep it going. This is their press release about the two events.

5/30: Tough Mudder SoCal 2011 will go down in Mudder Lore. Saturday (photos) was picture-perfect with blue skies and optimal conditions to run the very challenging course. 87% finished. Sunday (photos) was the evil step-sister, with average temps of 35 degrees Fahrenheit at the base and 60 mph gusts of wind chill bringing temps below 10 degrees at the summit. Job well done to the 63% who finished. To the 37% who did not finish, Big Mudder is still very proud of you. We look forward to seeing you conquer our upcoming NorCal 2011 event or next year’s SoCal Mudder, where conditions likely won’t be as unexpectedly brutal.As regards the weather conditions on Sunday, after serious consideration, we decided against canceling the event. Clearly, Tough Mudder does not control Mother Nature. We also make sure that all participants are over 18 years old and stress in our messaging that our course is an EXTREMELY tough challenge in which each obstacle is a personal decision. TMHQ invests HEAVILY in safety personnel, and on top of that our CEO, COO, and CMOinsisted on running in the 9:00 a.m. start wave to provide real-time feedback on the challenging conditions (all three finished). While we had many cases of mild to moderate hypothermia, all cases were prioritized in severity and dealt with accordingly by our professional medical teams. Definitely not ideal for those who needed the help, and we are sorry to those who didn’t have as great a day as a result. But once again job well done to all those who attempted the Sunday Mudder and we especially look forward to seeing the 37% at the finish line of TM NorCal 2011 or SoCal 2012.’

Driving back to SD from Snow Valley was also another challenge as I was shivering non stop for 2 hours afterwards, and I still did not have complete function of my fingers. On the way back, I accidently pissed another driver by switching to his lane after being stuck in an exit only lane, and that guy (silver mercedes c230 with crazy tinted windows) chased me down for 10 miles, and tried to follow me home. I eventually lost him by taking him on a roundabout path, but if there was a physical confrontation, I would have been useless due to my exhaustion from Tough Mudder. While this was a crazy difficult challenge, I believe I would do this again. That being said, I hope you enjoyed reading this and I also hope you enjoy the pictures.

Before and After

Saturday vs Sunday's weather

Jumping 15 ft. into water

Try shimmying across this rope bridge

That's ice on the plants

Chernobyl Jacuzzi, because it wasn't cold enough

Congrats to those who finished the Norcal 2011 tough mudder!

5 Responses to “Socal Tough Mudder 2011”
  1. kreptonic says:

    i didn’t know you were capable of writing so much! nice post!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I got out of breath just reading your Tough Mudder experience! Now I know the limit of what you would do for a BANANA!!! TY to your Mom for sharing…

  3. Anonymous says:

    What an adventure……..and I must say quite descriptive……..snot storm. You certainly have a lot of energy….don’t know how you survived it considering the health and weather issues. I think your mom could use some of your energy…..she is ready to fall asleep!!! LOL Thanks for sharing!!


  4. Edward says:

    This is ridiculously long, but I liked it. All I remember about running my marathon is chanting
    ” crap crap crap crap” repeatedly for 26.2 miles.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] other friends. Having successfully completed Tough Mudder last year, I said I would think about it (read here). Then Living Social had a deal for the 1/26/13 Super Spartan race in Temecula for $65 ($30 cheaper […]

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