The day started out great. My cousin, Don, and I headed to registration nice and early. The thunderstorms that everyone was worried about passed north of our location, provided us with a nice, thick and humid air to run through.
After picking up our race packets we were instructed to write our numbers on our forehead with permanent mark.
"Ha ha, that's a good one." I said.
"No number, no race" was the response.
So I accepted the permanent marker from the race volunteer and inscribed Don's number onto his forehead. At this time I realized I was lucky on two counts. I was lucky that there was no mirror available for Don to see that the zero on his forehead was written unneccesarily thick, and I was lucky that my wife was there to write my number on my forehead.
Besides the starting line, the only other thing we were able to see was the finish line, and the final obstacle, "Electroshock Therapy", more on that later.
To kill time before the race and keep our mind off the hardships ahead, we took a few pictures and threw beer kegs at Justin Bieber (unfortunately it was only a cardboard cutout)
At the bottom we rounded a curve then faced a climb straight up a black diamond ski hill. Many of us still charged up by the atmosphere tried to run as far up the hill as possible, but eventually everyone was walking or taking walking breaks. Now I understand why this was called the "Death March".
At the top was a stack of hay bales about five feet high that I had to climb over. Although the hay was wet this was done fairly easily. However, 20 feet away was a stack of hay 10 feet high.
Since this was in the beginning of the race there was a bit of back up here. For many people it was impossible to do the first time. The wait wouldn't have been so bad. It actually gave a chance to recuperate from the Death March but high pressure water was gushing from the snow maker drenching me while I waited. Welcome to "The Gauntlet"
After the Gauntlet I did even more hill running before coming upon the "Boa Constrictor". The Boa Constrictor was two large tubes that had to be crawled through. The first tube angled downward and dumped my already tired body into a large pit filled with cold, muddy water. Once I was nice and soaked I had to climb out of the pit through another tube angled upwards. The sides of the tube were slick so there was nothing to grab on to. My wet gloves did nothing to help. The only thing that had any grip were the tips of my shoes. Slowly I inched my way through the tube, until someone outside was able to grab my hand and pull me the rest of the way.
A short jog from the Boa Constrictor was the "Funky Monkey", an extremely large set of monkey bars that crossed over another large pool of cold, muddy water. Once again my mud covered gloves proved worthless. I didn't even make it to the half way point before my grip slipped and I splashed into the icy waters below. I could see now that I was going to spend most of this race wet and muddy.
The next obstacle I faced was the "Berlin Walls" standing 12 feet high. The nice people of Tough Mudder are aware that not everyone has a six foot vertical leap so they attached a block of wood towards the bottom of the wall. Of course the block of wood was maybe an inch thick and caused more people to crash into the wall then to actually climb it.
Luckily I am not a short guy and have pretty long arms so I was able to climb these walls on my own. Being a "bigger" guy, I was expected to help others over the wall as well. So I did my part to help some people who needed it by either giving them a boost at the bottom of the wall or sitting on top and pulling them over. After spending a few minutes at the walls I moved on.
It wasn't until two days later that I discovered what I'm calling my "Berlin Badge"
After all the uphill climbing, I thought I'd appreciate some downhill, but this run was riddled with rocks and so steep you either walked or ran, there was no jogging here. I chose to run down the hill trying to avoid as many rocks as I could. At the bottom of the hill I nearly toppled ass over apple cart while trying to make the sharp turn to stay on course. I was not at all happy to see another steep incline before me. To add to my discomfort was a large cargo net that forced me to walk bent over at the waste, trying to keep from getting tangled in the "Devil's Beard".
Shortly after the Devil's Beard is Cliffhanger, a steep incline covered in mud. I tried to muster as much speed as I could before hitting the base and charged up the hill. Luckily I made it up my first try but I did have to dodge a female who was not so lucky. Her body flailed as she tried desperately to find something to stop her descent but there was nothing. She was going to have to try again.
At the top of the hill I was welcomed by the Kiss of Mud. If any of you have ever done the Muddy Buddy, picture that mud pit at the end of the race, but picture it uphill. Instead of friendly rope, picture low hanging barbed wire, and replace the nice smooth bottom with a trillion rocks of different shapes and sizes. Now you have an idea what the Kiss of Mud was like.
Caked in mud, I ran down another steep hill and climbed across a large rope bridge called the "Turd's Nest"
Then it was a up ANOTHER ski hill. At this time I was growing quite annoyed with all the hills and may have cursed a time or two. After finally making it up the huge hill, I had to climb over several large logs called the "Log Bog Jog". While climbing over one of the logs, my mud caked shoe slipped and I crashed to the ground almost busting my ankle.
Now I was running down hill again. The day was getting hot and I was covered with mud when I came upon a large pool of water. There was a sign that said "Shake and Bake" next to the water, but I gave it no thought as I submerged my entire body into the cool water. Once I was nice and cool I left the water and ran around a group of trees.
"Son of bitch!" Right in front of me was a large sand pit with a taut cargo net above it. Those evil bastards knew that I was going to drench myself, head to toe, before being forced to crawl through this. I don't think there was a single inch of me that wasn't covered in sand when I got done. Now I know why it was called "Shake and Bake"
The torture of knowing that I was forced to run the next mile covered in sand was tempered slightly by the fact that I was now entering the golf course. "No more FRICKEN hills!" The golf course was a nice sight as my sand covered body jogged through it, but the next obstacle was absolutely beautiful. It was a large wooden platform next to a large pond. I rushed up the platform and yelped in joy as I plunged into the water below. "Walk The Plank" is by far my favorite obstacle.
After swimming under the floating barrels, I exited the water a happy man. The mud was gone, the sand was gone and the hills were gone. I was starting to feel pretty good. I was still smiling through the next obstacle "Spider's Web" which was just climbing up a large cargo net.
My smile wavered just a little bit when I discovered we had another set of "Berlin Walls" to tackle. By this time the crowd of runners had thinned considerably so there was no help at all. Luckily I was running with my cousin so we came up with a plan to conquer the walls. Using the precariously thin plank I grabbed the top of the wall. Don would then give me a small boost so I could pull myself to the top. Once I was up there I straddled the wall and grabbed his hand and pulled him up. It worked well and we passed the walls without much difficulty.
Shortly after that was a nice slide down a large portion of the hill called "Greased Lightening" most people were sliding on their butts but anyone who knows me knows that I just had to go head first. Of course I almost took out the guy in front of me.
At this point I was starting to feel a bit elated. These obstacles seemed to be getting a bit easier. Of course I then hit "Firewalker" which literally took my breath away. When I had first heard of the run through flaming bales of hay, I figured it was more for show and that the path would be easy. I was wrong. The four foot high stacks were placed only five feet or so apart, forcing me to run through intense heat and thick smoke. With the fire burning up all my oxygen, it was very hard to breath as I ran through this furnace.
Next was "Everest", a skate boarding quarter pipe that I had to run to the crest of. Normally this wouldn't have been too hard of a task except the nice Tough Mudder people had decided to drench it in vegetable oil. I witnessed many people sprint halfway up the pipe before sliding back down again. It took one girl 7 tries before she was able to hook the arms of the people on top of the pipe trying to help her out. Fortunately it only took me one try but I wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for the two guys that lent me a hand. Thanks guys.
After Everest was short jog to the "Ball Shrinker". This obstacle consisted of two ropes spanning a large pond, one low rope and one high rope. The idea was to walk on the low rope and use the high rope to assist your balance. Unfortunately some of the low ropes had snapped, causing a back up for the ones still in place.
That was when some of us brave/dumb mudders decided to hook our legs over the top rope and pull ourselves across. Brave because if you were near the 190 lb range the rope lowered just enough that your face was underwater half the time as you pulled yourself through. Dumb because if you went too fast you got a nasty rope burn on your leg.
Not yet feeling the pain from my rope burn, I jogged on to "Twinkle Toes" a pond crossing over six feet high on a beam not much bigger than a floor joist. I was doing a pretty good job keeping my balance when the guy in front of me fell off causing the beam to shift violently. I fought a losing battle to keep on my feet and plunged into the water below.
It was starting to feel like the Tough Mudder people did not want me to get dry because the next obstacle was "Dry Wood" where I was expected to carry a heavy log out into a large pond and back without the log getting wet. This would have been tough enough in a typical pond with solid footing, but at the bottom of this pond was mud over a foot deep. I could barely keep my shoes from being sucked off my feet. I'm sure the mud and the muck were real healthy for a leg missing several layers of skin.
After Dry Wood was a lengthy jog through the golf course until we came upon the mystery obstacle. Our mystery obstacle was a large swamp-like crossing with large pits randomly placed throughout. The terrain was taxing on fatigued legs. One guy, in front of me, had his leg violently cramp up and could not continue walking. I couldn't let the guy lay in the mud suffering so I offered myself as a crutch and helped him through the obstacle.
Shortly after the mystery obstacle I came across "Chernobyl Jacuzzi" this obstacle looked fairly innocent. All I had to do was climb into a large jacazzi filled with colored water and swim under a floating barrel. Since its my favorite color, I chose blue. I climbed up the platform and hopped into the water. HOLY CRAP! The water was FREEZING. I swear if it was one degree colder it would be a Slurpee.
Trying to control the shivering I swam under the barrel and lifted myself out of the blue ice bath and headed to the final obstacle, "Electroshock Therapy". Out of all the obstacles on the course, this is the one that has instilled fear in me. I knew about the electrically charged obstacle and I've even seen videos of others running it, but I still underestimated its power.
As I approached the multitude of dangling wires I was prepared for several small shocks, similar to that of a static shock. Halfway into the obstacle, however, I discovered what 10,000 volts feels like. I have no idea how it happened, just bad luck I guess, but one of the super charged leads hit me right on the cheek.
The electric charge triggered my jaw muscle, forcing my mouth to clamp shut with extreme force. Then everything went black and my legs stopped working. I hit the ground hard. Not thinking clearly I rose to my hands and knees to crawl to the end but another lead struck me in the back forcing me into the mud. I crawled on my belly through the nasty muck until I was free from the obstacle. I now know that 10,000 volts to the cheek feels like getting punched in the face by a very large man.
If you listen, you can hear me yelp when I get hit. Then I bitch about how much it hurt at the end.
Like I stated in the beginning of this very long post, this was the toughest race I've ever done, but also the most fun. I have already pre-registered for the MI and MN races next year. I have also added a new goal, to qualify for the Toughest Mudder 48 hour race by 2013.