(Updated 2/9/2015) Back in 2011, I signed up for my first Tough Mudder, which is a 12+ mile obstacle course race. This race was held on a ski slope in Big Bear, California. We had assembled a team of 7 people, including my brothers, and some of their friends. I was training really hard for this race. I was a bit intimidated when I found out that one of the guys on our team, Jose, was a Marine and another, Oscar, was a Paratrooper. I was telling my brother that I was afraid I was going to slow everybody down. Even though I had been training, I was still pretty heavy. I was the biggest guy on our team (taller, wider, and heavier).
My brother assured me that it would be no problem. We were going to start off as a team and finish as a team. We were just going to have fun (He was telling me all this while riding alongside me on a bike while I was in the middle of a non-stop 8 mile run- no walking).
Race day came and we were all excited. We were all wearing red Team Disgruntled shirts (the beginning of a longstanding tradition).
We started off with the first wave of racers. Immediately, we could tell this was going to be a fun and a challenging day. We began by running down a ski slope and getting blasted by snowmakers and powerful fans spraying wind and water at us, and then immediately we had to crawl up a hill underneath barbed wire in the mud, through a sewer pipe, and crawl out the other side. This was all within the first two minutes. I was like, “what did I sign up for?”
The rest of the day was spent climbing up and down the ski slopes which was murder on my quads and my lower back. I was in total pain. I actually looked forward to the obstacles because it was a break from all the hiking. But I really couldn’t complain much as I would see some people were carried out in stretchers. Also, Oscar, the paratrooper, dislocated his shoulder on one of the jumps. He popped his shoulder back into place and carried on with the race. I’m not gonna complain about a little back pain when this guy popped his arm back into place just so he could keep on running. This was around mile 4.
One of the obstacles is called “walk the plank.” You have to climb up on this platform and then jump into a lake and swim across.
I jumped down and my first instinct was to swim as fast as I could to the other side…then I saw my brother Justin doing the back pedal like Baloo in the Jungle Book. He said, “what’s the rush? We’re on a mountain taking a nice swim in a lake. Enjoy it.” Oh yeah! So I slowed down and enjoyed it.
There were about 30+ obstacles at this event, many of them seemed like they were just clever ways to name hiking up or down a mountain. For example, “King of the Mountain” was climbing up to the top of the mountain at which point you reach “Primal Scream” which means you get to yell as loud as you can from the top of the mountain. “Death March” was what they called this really long stretch of hiking up a trail, climbing over rocks, and eventually leading up to the base of “King of the Mountain.” There was a lot of hiking and trekking is what I’m trying to say.
You hear a lot of interesting things doing a Tough Mudder. Of course, you hear the whiners and complainers. One person complained about not wanting to do any more water obstacles. Water obstacles were my favorite ones because the cold water felt great on a hot day and was perfect for recharging drained muscles. I heard some people say that they had just finished a marathon and this was way tougher. That made me realize how cool and challenging this event was and what it would mean to finish it. There was also this memorable moment (I was reminded of it yesterday and can’t believe I forgot to add it to the first draft) where we were climbing up yet another mountain. This was near the end. The front of our shirts said “I am…Disgruntled!” Some cheering spectators read our shirts aloud and said, “disgruntled? Well, you’ve got every right to be.” To quote Oscar the paratrooper, “we must’ve looked like crap, beat up, and exhausted.” I think that is a very fair assessment, but we were also smiling. I think that’s one of the things that set us apart that day from other teams. We were getting our butts kicked but we were having fun. We took forever to finish but we stuck together the whole time. Other groups began ditching falling teammates. Some people got so miserable they quit. We were a team, we were disgruntled, and we were having fun.
When we were finally at the home stretch, running down the mountain, looking down at the finish line and the crowds were cheering, this big, strong Marine looking dude pulled up beside me. He said, “at this point, it’s not even about training, it’s about wanting to finish.” I said “yeah, but training sure helps.” “No doubt, brother,” and he sped down the mountain and past our group.
So now we got to the finish line but the finish line for Tough Mudder is not like the finish line for a 10k or marathon. To cross the finish line, you have to run through a field of live wires carrying up to 10,000 volts of electricity, while attendants are spraying you with water. We grabbed our nuts, covered our faces, and ran as fast as we could jumping over bales of hay, splashing through puddles of water, and over to freedom on the other side.
We were rewarded with an orange headband, a finisher t-shirt, and the best beer I’ve ever had in my life.
I did another Tough Mudder the following year with my brothers and some friends and now I’m looking forward to finishing my 3rd Tough Mudder this March.
Here’s to Team Disgruntled and more victories!