Monday, June 8, 2015

Tough Mudder New England 2015

June 7, 2015
After having done the Bone Frog three weeks ago, I was not nervous about the Tough Mudder.  The distance was the same, but far fewer obstacles and those didn’t seem as difficult--many were teamwork based, while others were more “mental grit” obstacles rather than physically demanding.  Ultimately, the biggest punishment was the mountain itself.

My friend Jane drove to my house and from there I drove to Mount Snow, VT. Parking was easy, and we had to park at the far end of the lot that never completely filled up. It was a hike to get to the starting area. Registration was much more laid back than the other races I’ve been to, it was pretty smooth and we got through relatively quickly. They had volunteers moving up and down the line checking IDs and such to help speed things along.
Course Map

After registration we met our friend John, put on sunscreen/bug spray and our bibs. Bathrooms were porta-potties, but there were plenty of them. Bag check was easy as well, but cost $10 (as opposed to $5 at Bone Frog). We still had easily a half hour before the team wave, but a staff member told us that they weren’t enforcing wave times--if you were ready, you could go anytime. We found our friend Nicole and the four of us went to the Warm Up area, where an enthusiastic DJ led us through some aerobics. Then on to the start line, where we were given a pep talk, that was good but entirely too long, and then we were off. 
Ready to race

As I expected, the mountain itself was my biggest enemy. There was nothing quite as bad at the “Stairway to Valhalla” that there was at the Bone Frog, but there were definitely more hikes up ski runs. There were also a lot of hikes down ski runs as well, which were punishing to my right knee. Going up and down those hills, and as slow as I did, makes me very wary of attempting the Killington Spartan Beast this year, unless I seriously up my fitness level.

First obstacle was Kiss of Mud 2.0, which was a low crawl through mud under barbed wire.  My hydration pack god snagged, but otherwise it wasn’t so bad.  

Negotiating the Barbed Wire

Next was a tough climb up the ski slopes for a mile and a half until we reached Liberator, which you had to climb up a wall using pegs you inserted into holes in the wall to support you (and some footholds). Next was Bale Bonds, which was climbing over walls of hay bales, and then Quagmire, which was a trudge through a mudpit. The others hesitated for a moment at that one, but I just plowed through it. So far the obstacles were pretty easy, but the hill was killing me. For the most part, Jane stayed close to me while I slogged up the hills, while John and Nicole usually went on ahead to the next stopping point and waited there.

Next was Beached Whale, which consisted of large inflatable that you had to work together as a team to get over, then down to Everest 2.0, which was a curved slope wall (a quarter pipe) that you had to run up, grab a rope, and then climb to the top while others held the ropes and helped you up.  Next was Birth Canal which was another low crawl under a plastic tarp filled with water that pressed you down--it certainly lived up to its name. Then Funky Monkey, a set of monkey bars that Nicole dominated, John and I failed (although I think I got a little farther along than John did, but just a little, and Jane skipped. Up to this point I was doing the obstacles just fine, but this one beat me. I really need to work on the upper body strength, grip strength, and losing weight.  

Back up the hill to Prairie Dog, which was shimmying down a narrow plastic pipe. Farther uphill to Skidmarked, a tall inverse wall which required us to help each other over, then more hiking to get to Devil’s Beard, which was a long crawl downhill under a relatively tight net.

John carries me for the first half of the Warrior Carry
Downhill and back up to the Warrior Carry, John carried me piggyback a ways and then I returned the favor, while Nicole and Jane did the same. More up and down hiking to Balls Out, which was a canted wall that you had to traverse sideways, using hanging ropes to traverse it.  Nicole crushed it, John got most of the way but slipped near the end. Jane slipped a few times but completed it--I couldn’t get past the second rope. Other than the fact that I’m not strong enough to do it, my shoes simply could not get any traction on the wall, and my feet slid down the wall like they had been greased… I was angry that I couldn’t do it, and punched one of the walls in frustration with myself, skinning my knuckles.  

A long way downhill to the bottom, where we did Arctic Enema. This was one of the more mental obstacles. You slid down a short slide into a pool of ice water--full immersion. Then you had to climb over a wall into another pool of ice water, then another pool to get out. Nicole balked at this one--she said she was very cold-phobic, but she went ahead and did it anyway. I followed her, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought--very cold, but I didn’t cramp up or anything. The cold went away fast enough once we got moving again. Another short stint up and down the hill and we did Walk the Plank, a jump from maybe 15 feet high into a pool of water. I did a cannonball from the top. While swimming, my calf cramped up slightly, but it wasn’t too bad.  

Back up a very steep hill to Cry Baby, which was a crawl through an enclosure with tear gas.  I went to one side where the tear gas didn’t look that dense. It didn’t sting my eyes at all (I kept one eye closed the entire time). It smelled like strong peppermint, and burned your lungs if you breathed it too deeply. I got through it fine. Nicole did it as well, while Jane & John skipped it.  

Next was Berlin Walls, which was only one wall, but it was very high and required a lot of boosting to get over.  John helped as all over and skipped it himself due to his bad knees, but he did most of the work anyway.  
I run through Electroshock

A short hike later we were almost done. John, Jane, and Nicole, all being Tough Mudder “Legionnaires”, that is, having already done a Tough Mudder, got the option to do Dead Ringer, which they held a pair of rings and needed to move them from peg to peg while hanging from them.  After that was Electroshock, with the Finish line right past it. John and Jane skipped it, while Nicole and I did it.  It turned out to be something of a disappointment, as I figured every dangling string would be live, but I plowed through most of them and got nothing.  I only got a shock on two of them, and even that wasn’t very strong.  
Getting zapped
Through the finish line, and past all the spectators were a bunch of volunteers, one of whom put a Tough Mudder headband on my head.  

Sporting our new headbands

All in all, I thought the race was easier than Bone Frog, but rougher on my knees. The “mental grit” obstacles were definitely fun, and I liked the race a lot.  I’d like to do another one.

Other Races in this series

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