Monday, June 27, 2011

Tough Mudder Colorado

This past weekend was a busy one in our household. Not only did D get ear tube surgery to fix some nasty recurring ear infections on Friday night, but on Saturday afternoon, I attempted the Tough Mudder adventure race in Beaver Creek.

Insane? Yes. Not only did I feel terrible leaving my infant with my parents while I headed up to the mountains, but I also felt incredibly stupid for showing up to this event woefully underprepared. Had I done Insanity and P90X videos with my coworkers at lunchtime a few times a week? Sure. Did I knock off 4 and 5 mile runs on the weekdays? Yep. But that was about the extent of it. The race advertised itself as initially being 8 miles long. Then a week before the race it was 9 miles. And then the day of, we heard that it was 10. *10* miles. Seriously, I have never run more than 8 because I've never raced for more than a 10K and would rather spend that time biking or swimming.

So as you can see, there were several physical factors that had me quaking in my dirty old sneakers. I had no idea if I could do this. To top it off, I am claustrophobic AND afraid of heights. Watching YouTube videos of the SoCal race practically gave me a panic attack. People at work asked me why I signed up. Peer pressure.

We arrived in Beaver Creek at 10am and parked at the event hotel, the Park Hyatt, where we made reservations for the night. (Brilliant idea, it turns out) There, I changed into my race attire, applied sunscreen, and then checked my bags. DH and I went to our respective packet pickup table -- he as a spectator and I as a crazy victim. Got my number, then decided to just get body-marked on the arm as I was wearing a hat and didn't happen to have any acetone on me for after the race.

I met up with my team -- 6 coworkers and their 2 friends -- and we stood around watching people get electrocuted by the "Electroshock Therapy" obstacle at the end of the race. Truly, we were all terrified and wanting to murder Brian, whose brilliant idea it was to enter this race.

As a last minute decision, we opted to sneak into an earlier wave and get this over with. It was 11:40 at the time and we wouldn't get to go until 12:40, so we lined up with the 12pmers and started in on the Tough Mudder Pledge. (I know, so bad -- I am normally not a rule-breaker, but again, peer pressure) At any rate, I gave my hubby a kiss on the cheek and told him to keep his cell phone handy because there was no way in hell I was going to make it through the course. And with that, the gun went off and the Braveheart Charge commenced.

We were lined up on a pretty steep mountain slope heading downhill, so we all slowly trudged down waiting our turn to run. The course took a turn through the Village and then headed up some steep slopes towards the first obstacle, the Berlin Wall. It's advertised at 12 feet, but probably more like 10. Regardless, with no upper body strength and a fear of heights, I was not only petrified, but screwed. My teammates were great and gave me a leg up followed by a push. I was able to get my arms up over the top and then swing my legs over....but then I made the mistake of grabbing the top and then flinging myself down, pounding my lower back in the process. Ouch?!!

We kept climbing until we got to the Boa Constrictor, a series pipes that empty into a pool of water that you have to climb into and back out of. Being claustrophobic, I dreaded this obstacle above all else. Brian stayed back with me and made the educated decision to observe all the tunnels and noted that the tunnel on the far right didn't empty into very much water at all. So, I sucked it up and went through.....and I did it! I was just so proud of myself. Everyone was cracking up because it was a bit of a non-event obstacle for them, but for me, it got the adrenaline pumping and made me quite proud of myself.

We then were able to traverse the mountain a bit, so we got a chance to run again for maybe a 1/2 mile through some gorgeous stands of Aspen. We had a few wood obstacles and some mud to maneuver through, and then we got to the "Kiss of Mud," which was the mud pit with barbed wire strewn over the top. Ouch! Lacking the upper body strength to drag my legs over the rocks and mud like all the guys, I just crawled and took breaks for my knees in between the barbed wire. (There was regular wire that didn't hurt to press up against) I was so glad to get out of this obstacle, until we realized that the next obstacle was the freaking dip in the 36 degree mountain pond.

I've never done a Polar Bear swim. In fact, my coldest swim was a wetsuit-protected 56 degrees up in Santa Barbara. Like a lemming, I jumped right in and wow! did my heart stop. It was so freaky, but one of the guys in front of me talked us all through it, saying that it does some crazy things to your heart but we had to keep breathing and moving forward. I have had palpitations in the past, so this really freaked me out...but before I knew it, we were out of the pond.

I thought we were in the clear of the freezing cold water until I saw the next mountain pond, complete with three rows of barrels we were expected to swim under. No problem! I got it this time. Into the water I went, and I was under the first barrel easily. Unfortunately, I was on the end towards the center of the pond and quickly found myself WAY over my head. I panicked at this point, despite years of open water swims under my belt. I was concerned with submerging myself without having the bottom of the pond to launch myself back up, so I did the smart thing for me and swam around the remaining two barrels. I was relieved that nobody questioned my decision -- I knew it was the safest thing for me to do, and since there were no lifeguards anywhere near me, I don't regret it one bit. I took the help getting me out of this pond, gladly received my foil blanket, and then proceeded uphill to the "Hold Your Wood" obstacle.

At this point, I was cold and wondering how the heck I was going to keep this up! And when I came across the logs and there was nothing but massive ones left, I was a bit defeated......Until I met my new best friend, who asked if I wanted to share a big log! So this lovely stranger and I commenced the Hold Your Wood loop, with our big ol' man log. We dropped it a few times and took some breathers here and there, but overall we finished the damn thing and were glad to be done with our log. Imagine our shock when people decided to carry a log to the end of the course for no apparent reason other than to torture themselves for the full 10 miles?!

So I think at this point we were at mile 3. And we ran.....and ran.....and ran.....until we hit the Chernobyl Jacuzzi. I had no idea what the actual obstacle was because all I saw was a ramp. And then someone asked if I wanted red, green, or blue. Well, I was wearing blue, so Blue!! So up the ramp I went and then I realized the damn tank was filled with ice cubes and water. Dyed blue. SHIT!!!!! But like the good lemming that I am, I jumped in, dove under the bar, and then jumped up as fast as I could. Somehow it didn't seem as cold as the mountain pond. Shocker, eh? I have to admit, I'm still finding blue on my body.

After that is sort of a blur. I think we started a really big downhill run, so I enjoyed chatting with everyone and getting a breather from the obstacles. At one point we hit mile 4 and I decided that maybe I was going to finish after all?!

Then the uphill insanity commenced. And boy, was it crazy! The steepest damn ski slopes they could come up with -- we were literally going from foothold to foothold, and sometimes the easiest way up was to go diagonally. I was winded and my feet were cramping, but somehow I made it. We got a nice traverse of the mountain again where we could run, and then the uphill started again. But this time it was strewn with obstacles --- firemen nailing us with hoses as we maneuvered through sloppy mud and jumped hay bales, crawling under cargo nets while climbing huge mountains of icy snow. The Mud Mile, where we blindly jumped into rock and log-strewn mud pits, twisting ankles and cursing the day we signed up for the race. It was all exposed to the sun and wind, and was an overall miserable segment of the race. I fell behind my teammates a bit here and was generally not enjoying life.

We finally hit the summit and were done with the uphills. Woohoo!! So we ran the rest of the way, and shockingly this wasn't too bad. The quads held up well, the foot and calf cramping stopped, and we were able to knock off some time. The obstacles on the back end of the course were pretty tough -- 3 more Berlin Walls, which totally kicked my butt but somehow I managed to get my rear pushed over the top of all of them; the cargo net that I nearly ate it on as it sent me upside down and perpendicular to the ground until I got over the top of it; and this weird tunnel crawl through a long tunnel. I didn't think I'd be able to do the latter, but by this point, I figured it couldn't be worse than what I'd already done. And it wasn't!

Heading back towards the ski village, we first had to run down a steep slope (the "Slalom") and then commenced the spraying in the mud before going down the Greased Lightening Slip n' Slide. I saw DH and he got great shots of our team as we all took headers down the slide and into the muddy pond awaiting us. I climbed over the hay bale and then we had to get down off this icy snow I followed the guy in front of me and sat down for a "slide." Um, this was incredibly stupid. I am sporting the biggest welts on the sides of my hips you could possibly imagine. It is seriously disgusting. I think this was the very worst obstacle solely based on the intense pain it subjected me to.

After the slide of doom, we entered the Monkey bar area. Having no upper body strength, I decided it would be safer to just jump in straight up rather than attempt one or two bars and then fall from a higher height into the mud. This worked well for me -- I bailed with another female teammate and we waded to the "shore" without too much stress.

The finish line was in site -- but there was Everest. The guys had no problems with it and were able to run up and hoist themselves to the top, no problem. I was the last one left behind, so I ran as fast as I could until I got 3 steps from the top....then my calf cramp and the forward momentum just stopped. I threw my hands out and my teammates caught me. For a minute I was worried they would drop me back down, but thankfully they hoisted me up and I was done. Phew!

The last obstacle was the shock therapy, and to be honest, you could have done anything to me at this point because I would have done anything to be DONE! All I wanted was a nice warm shower and then bedtime.

So we waited in line for this obstacle, decided to go in rows of 3, and off we went within a few seconds of eachother. I was lucky and Aaron in front of me took the biggest blows. I got shocked a bit in my calf, but nothing earth-shattering. :) We ran a few more yards and then finished, eager to get our silly orange headbands so that we could join this cultish order of daredevil fitness freaks and their fearless brethren.

I have to admit, this is my first finish line where I felt relief moreso than excitement. I really, truly doubted myself in this race. I was afraid of nearly everything, so I really didn't know if I could do it. But somehow I managed to put my fears aside, put my head down, and get it done. And now I can not only say I ran my first 10-miler (okay, we probably only ran 5), but I am a freaking Tough Mudder. Had I stayed a "serious" triathlete, I never would have signed up for this for fear of injuring myself and ruining the season, so I guess things do happen for a reason.

My teammates were exceptional and I couldn't have asked to be surrounded by better people. My co-racers were amazingly supportive and kind. I'm not a svelte little girl, but that didn't matter-- they helped me anyway. There were lots of high fives and way-to-gos the entire way, and I really enjoyed the atmosphere. Yes, triathletes are friendly, too, but Tough Mudders will stop and help you out if you are in trouble.

Overall, I am happy I did the race. My battle wounds make me look like DH laid down the law and threw me down a flight of stairs, and my right knee is a swollen mess, but I think it's all fixable. I now have bragging rights, a closer bond with my crazy coworkers and partners in crime, and a clear sense that I really can do anything if I want it bad enough.

The race was surprisingly well-run when all was said and done. The venue was phenomenal, the obstacles were solid and well-built, the aid stations were well-stocked with cold water and fresh bananas, and the race-day registration was easy peasy. DH enjoyed the roped off area with all the food vendors -- I think he ate his way through the afternoon. The bag check was pretty awesome, although I didn't have to use it. I just wish there had been some showers at the end, because a lot of people drove in from Denver and those hoses while fully-clothed just don't do the job at cleaning you. Must have been an uncomfortable drive home! But they will get there....clearly this company has caught on to the need for events like this in the US, and they will only get better with time if they keep listening to the criticisms constructively.

My biggest criticism? Well, it was my first time away from the baby since he was 3 months old (a year ago, nearly!) and I was too mangled to really get to enjoy that time away with the hubs. Thanks for the excellent birth control, Tough Mudder. :)


Steph said...

You go girl!! You are always such a rockstar and I am soooo jealous! One of these days you need to write a post about how you got where you are. Seriously, what got you started on this journey?? It would definitey help inspire me and give me hope that one day I could become (my version of) an athlete! :)

MtngirlinCali said...

Documented on this very blog, Steph! June 2007, I decided on a whim to sign up for a triathlon team so that I could do the Santa Barbara Super Sprint Triathlon and Pacific Coast Triathlon. I was bored and the scenery looked "pretty." :) All it takes is a goal. You should totally just sign up for something.

Michelle said...

I want to do one of these events one day. They seem crazy but fun. Hope the surgery was a success.