It all started last April, when I bought Jeremy (and myself) an entry into the Texas Tough Mudder for his 35th birthday. Back then it seemed like a great idea. Run 10 miles though mud, water, and obstacles all for the fun of it. However, what I did not consider, was that the challenge was in January. Now, I know some of you northern folks think it is balmy in Texas all year round, but I can assure you that it can get very cold. Today it is 37 degrees. That's cold.
Fortunately, we got lucky. The weather had forecasted a front moving into the area with rain and cold winds, however, that seemed to hold off until the next week, and it was 65 degrees the day of the race. Perfect.
We arrived at the event just in time to see our friend, Mark, and his team, Sic-Fit, start the course. We followed behind them 2 waves later, around 10:40. But before we started we made sure to brand ourselves with our bib, and bib number written in permanent marker across our arms, legs, and forehead. Yep, they wanted to make sure you were visible from all angles... and when covered with a ton of mud. (side note - if you are planning to do this event, bring your own marker and avoid the long branding line)
First things first. They make sure to stress to you that the Tough Mudder is not a race, it's a challenge. It's about having fun and helping each other out. And man are they right. There were more than a few obstacles that you could not have conquered on your own.
Our event was held at the Cross Creek Cyclecross track in Paige, TX (about an hour east of Austin). The first mile or more is running around the cyclecross track. Up and down the many hills they have built up. Then you hit the first obstacle...
Kiss Of Mud
I was able to get under this by crawling on my hands and knees, Jeremy had to get down a bit lower and army crawl through it. Just for kicks they made us do this obstacle twice.
Run around the track a bit more, and you come to the mystery obstacle. This one we also had to do twice. Obstacle two: Ice Bath. Yep. It was a pit of mud water about waist deep that you had to jump into... and it was filled with ice. Brrrr. You definitely needed help getting out of this one.
After running about another quater mile, you hit obstacle 3: Creek Crusade. Slosh your way through waist deep freezing cold muddy water. This was the second introduction to the freezing cold water. This "creek" was pretty wide, and by the time we got to the other side, my feet were frozen. I guess this was their way of "easing" you into the cold water that was waiting for you ahead.
Just as you exited the creek and turned the corner, there you were faced with the first real tough obstacle... Walk the Plank. Okay, so here you had to jump off what they say is a 15 foot platform into freezing cold water. (I think it was more like 20' myself). But first you have to get up to the platform by scaling up this flat wooden incline (about 80 deg) using a rope. Of course it was so muddy that was almost impossible, so someone helped push you from the bottom, while the guy at the top grabbed your arm and yanked you up. Now the platform at the top was only about 5' x 10' most, so you didn't have much of a chance to think before someone started screaming at you "jump, jump."
I don't really recall falling into the water, as much as I remember the cold zapping all the energy out of my body the instant I hit the water. Whew... that was cold. But that wasn't the end of it. You still had to swim across the lake. Yes, lake. This wasn't just a pond, it was FAR. All I could think was "swim, swim, swim." Half way across you can't feel anything anymore, and all you can do is try to focus on making it to shore. When you finally made it, they had emergency blankets for those who needed them, but we found that we warmed up quite quickly. After all, the water was probably about 55 degrees, max. Way colder than the pool at Barton Springs in Austin.
The next few obstacles included Devil's Beard: a series of three cargo nets that you had to climb under.... some while going up a muddy hill. Then there was the Hay Bails. Not just little square ones, large round ones. First stacked one high, then stacked in a pyramid 2-3 high. The pyramid was another obstacle where you definitely needed the help of others to get up and over.
There was also the Berlin Walls: A series of 3 - 12' high walls that you had to get up and over. And of course the Mud Hill: try your best to make it to the top without slipping back down... then slide down the other side.
I should mention here that all these obstacles were somewhat spaced out and between each one was some running and a lot of trekking through small ponds of freezing water and/or mud. You know, at some point, you just don't even notice that you can't feel your feet.
By this time we finally reached mile 5. Time for a short water break and some clif shots.