I got up at 4am Saturday morning so that I could get ready and make the drive over to Glen Helen Raceway for this year’s SoCal Tough Mudder. This was my 3rd time competing in Tough Mudder, and my first time ever at this race course.
My wife and I headed over to the event where my brother Justin would also be meeting us. Justin had agreed to be my photographer for this event. He was going to run alongside me for a while and take some cool action shots. He ended up running the entire event.
I was scheduled to run in the 8:15am wave, one of the first waves. After I picked up my wristbands, bib, and wrote my bib number on my arms and t-shirt, I met up with Justin and we headed over to the “warmup zone.” The warmup zone is a corral filled with people doing stretches and exercises, such as squats and jumping jacks, while a guy with a bullhorn is getting everybody pumped up and ready to start the race. Once we finish warming up, we move over to the starting line. But this is Tough Mudder. You don’t just walk over to the starting line, you have to climb over a wall first. Once at the starting line, you get pumped up again by another speaker, listen to the national anthem, and then they start the race.
Having run two Tough Mudders before, I knew that I needed to expect very tough terrain, and very steep hills. That’s why I’m glad that I’ve been hitting so many trails lately. Well, as soon as we cross the starting line, we come across our first hill- a very steep decline. This is where most people were slowing down, many were sliding down on their butts,- my brother and I charged down that hill at full speed. I found that I ran down hills best if I zig-zagged like I was skiing downhill.
We came to the bottom of that first hill and immediately had our first climb. It was steep and it was high. Justin said, “we do this shit for a living.” We just started walking up. He was right, we do this stuff all the time so it wasn’t that bad. Correction- It was still hard but it was something that I had been training for regularly now.
About a third of the way up this first hill, there is a little bit of a flat part where some people stopped to catch their breath. This girl got up there, to where her boyfriend was waiting, and started crying. I think they dropped out of the race right there. I didn’t see them anymore on the course. This was 5 minutes into the race.
The first 5 or 6 miles were basically a series of steep climbs and descents with a few obstacles thrown in between. If a participant comes to Tough Mudder just expecting to do obstacles, he\she’s got another thing coming because it is the terrain that knocks people out of the event. It is hard. One of the hills that we got to was so steep up at the top that if you took a step too fast, you’d slide down several feet and have to try again. Some people began forming a human ladder and trying to pull others up. Others were trying to dig into the soft rock wall to try to steady them up but couldn’t hold on too hard because the rocks (more like hard sand) would fall apart. One guy just sat down, disappointed with himself that he couldn’t make it up those last 8 feet. I never saw him again either but hopefully he made it up to the top of that hill at least. Later on, when Justin and I were already close to finished with the race, we looked back up on that hill and saw that people were using a firehose to climb up that hill.
What I liked about this year’s Tough Mudder was that it was very spectator-friendly. There were designated routes were the spectators would be able to see their loved ones hit the different obstacles. Which is awesome because the obstacles this year were great and made for some great photo ops. I’ll include a picture slideshow and video highlights at the bottom of this post.
One of my favorites was King of the Swingers. You climb up to this platform, then jump onto these handlebars, swing, jump off, try to ring the bell, then land into the pool of water below.
I also liked Shawshanked. You crawl under barb wire, then up a sewage pipe, where you have to drop backwards out of the other end into a pool of water below. This one makes you queasy. Crawling out of the pool I saw people hunched over grabbing their stomachs. I soon joined them for a bit before running on to the next obstacles.
Every obstacle I encountered was fun and challenging. I was proud of myself for being able to scale the walls, to crawl, climb and run my way through everything. I’m also glad that I wore gloves. There was a rope on one of those steep hills that you needed to hold on to as you ran down that hill. It burned the rubber off my gloves.
It was cool having my brother with me too. The recurring catchphrases were “I do this shit for a living” whenever we’d encounter a new obstacle or difficult terrain, or “party all the time” which he’d shout to other mudders as encouragement right before we’d go charging down some hill. The “I do this shit for a living” slogan was really appropriate for the new obstacle Crybaby. In Crybaby, mudders need to crawl through this enclosed box filled with gas that makes your eyes water and sinuses clear up. We crawled into the box and were hit with this heavily mentholated cloud and I started laughing and told my brother, “we really DO do this shit for a living.” At work, we deal with a lot of flavors and fragrances, one of them is menthol, so this was nothing to us. It actually felt quite refreshing.
We went through the whole course, then came the final obstacle- Shock Therapy. This is where you have to run through a field of live wires that give shocks up to 10,000 volts. This is my least favorite of all the obstacles and I didn’t really feel like getting shocked. I was standing in front of the wires when I looked behind me and saw a group of guys that we’d been running in to all day, Team Never Pull Out. I was like “Never pull out!” They were like “Yeah!” I asked if I could run through with them and they said cool. We ran through together, and by together I mean I ran behind them, and we finished the race. Turns out that as a legionnaire I could’ve just bypassed the wires and finished the race. Maybe next time.
As always, the post-race beer was the best beer I ever had. It was definitely well earned. I had a great experience and I’ll most likely do it again.
Oh, while I was drinking my beer, I realized that I had yet to do the Ring of Fire. This was a new obstacle free to Legionnaires. I pretty much had to do it.
And here’s a picture slideshow