Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hardcore Play-By-Play

1.Kiss Of Mud #1 –This was billed as crawling through mud under barbed wire, but they must not have gotten around to soaking it. It was just good, old-fashioned sandy Florida dirt. We kept our rears and our heads down and we were fine.

2.Underwater Tunnels--This (oddly named) obstacle featured a pond with three (or more—don’t remember) rows of floating barrels across it. It was our first real water obstacle and our first mistake was getting IN the water to wait our turn. But it wasn’t more than chest-high on me, so we could take giant steps under each barrel—still full submersion, but at least in controlled fashion!

3. Log Jammin—I really enjoyed this one. The Mudder team had stacked rows and rows of pine logs log-cabin style, so we went over or under them. Memories of fun times in the woods! One “over” wall had a log that had rolled on the top, which made me a little nervous that it might roll again, but a controlled climb and we were done!

4.Mud Mile #1 –I thought of these as the “default obstacle” for the course designers. Just dig four trenches, pile the dirt into about six-foot-high piles in between and fill trenches with water. This one was average—a nice introduction to the art of going over and through. I remembered my childhood trick of going down steep hills by sitting back on one heel and “sledding” down with my other foot in front of me. (Possibly why my right ankle hurt a bit afterward!)

5.Arctic Enema—The one everyone thinks about—jump into a dumpster of ice water, go under a wooden barrier and come up on the other side. One of our team had a little anxiety about this, so I went first and waited on the near side of the barrier. I felt fine, but the monitors started scream at me to go under and get out. She did a freakin’ phenomenal jump and went straight under, so I followed her. I came up under a giant clump of ice cubes that had melted together, so I thought I was still under something. By the time I pushed it away and came up, I was ready to get out. The GIANT bruise on my left bicep bears witness to the fact that I used the first body part to clear the lip (said bicep) to lever my whole core up and over the lip. I rolled over—not pretty, but effective. I felt so energized after this one! I decided that my Viking ancestors must have something to do with that.

6.Mud Mile #2 – Just another obstacle at the Mudder.

7.Boa Constrictor –This was just fun, though I can see how it might be harder for bigger Mudders. First we slid down one of those bumpy black plastic drainage pipes into a mud puddle (so old hat by now!) and then we pulled ourselves up one by the rope hanging down through it. The slopes weren’t bad and, as I pulled myself up the pipe by upper body strength, legs just hanging, I realized…it wasn’t hard. I got a bit fatigued by the top, but I could do it without straining. I started to realize I was really prepared for the course.

8.Cliffhanger—This stop was basically a giant hill of mud. They billed it as forty feet high and forty-five degrees. Okay, maybe. But the real catch came in the start—a giant, slick trench of mud with a hard lip that was basically the height of my chest. So, just like getting out of the pool, you had to press up and then get a foot on the base of the dirt hill, made nice and slick by previous Mudders. After that it was a snap. J
Bonus: Got to see Captain Jack Sparrow again here, standing atop a narrow hillock with a tree. (???? Not your normal Florida landscape)

9.Berlin Walls #1 –We had a learning curve at our first set of twelve-foot wooden wall, but we made it over. I’d sweated the math on this one a bit, because we’re all less than 5’5” tall, so how could we add up to twelve? But, at some point, we picked up the technique from our fellow Mudders. We learned to do stirrup boosts from both sides and then essentially lift the climber over our heads. Then the climber does that now-familiar press up, straddles the wall, hangs, and drops off the other side. Again, at the top of the wall it hit me: this isn’t hard.
Bonus: Signs said, “A crowded Berlin Wall is no place for an inappropriate touch.” I was ready to trade an accidental grab for a boost!

10.Electric Eel—Although less infamous than Electroshock Therapy, this one has you crawl through water under electric wires. The wires hand in rows just about hip-width apart for me, so again, it must have been hard for bigger Mudders. Anyway, they put down industrial-strength black plastic to keep the water in, so I had no problem pulling myself along by my elbows. I did bog down in one spot and used my knees a bit, which was enough to put my thigh into one of the wires. It had a fair kick—my muscle felt odd for the next mile or so.

11.Hold Your Wood –This leg of the course, billed as a half mile, simply involved carrying a large log. Allegedly, they were all the same weight, but who knows. Mine weighed less than my five-year-old (45 lbs), so the weight wasn’t an issue at all. That pointy bone on top of my shoulder was! I saw guys angling their logs to go more across their back, but I just didn’t have the arm strength for that. So I just balanced the thing on top of my hands on top of my shoulders. I got a little tired by the end, but we were all feeling it by now.
Bonus: This is was the water station that had the electrolyte gummie bears. HOLY COW. Those things hit the spot.

12.Lumberjacked –Basically this stop had long barriers of single pine logs set about chest high on me. Another fun one!

13.Mud Mile #3 –I think this was the one with the bottomless mud pit. Most of these had four or five hill/muddy trench combos. In the middle of this one, the trench went down. I sank in over my knees. Fortunately, it was pretty loose (not like the sticky mud I’m used to from canoeing in swamps), but it still had a grip. Some of the footholds on the hill were packed pretty hard by then, so I got hold of a low one and levered my leg up. Onward and upward!

14.Ballshrinker –I can really see how temperature makes a huge difference with this one. Our water (probably in the sixties) felt positively refreshing after jogging through pastureland. Icy water, though…. This obstacle had another pond, and you had to go hand-over-hand along sagging rope across the water. People wrapped their legs over the rope and did it that way, but I didn’t see the point—I just floated on my back and pulled along at a good clip. But the water was DEEP—I couldn’t touch bottom until the edge.

15.Walk The Plank—Here, once again, the water was deep. It had to be, since we were jumping off a fifteen-foot platform into water. First, though, they make you climb a wall with a slight slope and 1x4 boards nailed the skinny way for toeholds. That’s just to get up. But I have to admit that, since this was the obstacle I dreaded most, other than Electroshock Therapy, it was good to have something to think about. Not so great at the top when the guy before me had a cramp or something when he hit the water. He moved out of my way excruciatingly slowly, me looking WAY down at him all the while. As soon as he got clear I turned my brain off and screamed. Hit the water screaming; got lots of nasty water up my nose and in my mouth. But I jumped!

16.Berlin Walls #2—We had lots of great help on this set, but I think we all pretty much decided we don’t like these. Somehow, we all walked away from these hurting—bruises, banged pelvic bones, strained elbows and shoulders.

17.Kiss Of Mud #2 –Another crawl through mud under barbed wire, with the additional bonus of water truck spraying us and a truly diabolical operator. We tried to gage the truck’s distance and avoid the hosing, but he kept switching it up.
Bonus: The fifty-something Hispanic guy next to me was cussing (in Spanish) the whole way. Awesome. Pretty sure I heard something directed at the truck driver’s mother.

18.Mud Mile #4 –Just another obstacle at the Tough Mudder!

19.Wounded Warrior Carry—I really feel like we phoned this one in. The object was to carry your partner a distance (200 yards, I think) then switch—or hop. We asked the guy in camo at the entrance if two of us could carry the third, and he said that was fine. We made it halfway, then just, well, like I said, phoned it in.

20.Trench Warfare –This crawl through muddy trenches was just fun. They were big enough to call on hands and knees, but they had two ninety-degree turns, so it was pitch black in the middle. Impressive excavation work, though—we were all thinking how much our kids would love it!

21.Funky Monkey –What can I say? This would be the reason we looked pretty clean at the end. I honestly hoped to make two good grabs, but I didn’t even get one. As soon as my weight shifted, I slipped OFF. Into water, of course. If I do this again, I am GOING to find a way to practice this.

22.Balls To The Wall –I LOVED this one! This was the epitome of my realization that I can do things I never thought I could. I think it’s a fifteen foot wall (More or less—I’m a typical woman who can’t estimate measurements) with cleats (those skinny boards) and knotted ropes. I got one foot up on the first cleat (as high as my hip), started hand-over-handing up the rope and thought, “This is it? Where’s the hard part?” I had become someone who can go up a rope. I’m still not sure I’ve embraced that, but I like it.

23.Everest –And it’s a good thing I had that, because Everest was another exercise in humility. This is the giant quarter-pipe you have to go up and over. It’s possible to do it on your own, but most people need a hand. I watched a couple of people go, including a teeny, fit woman who ran right up. A couple of guys met my eyes and nodded, so I took a deep breath and ran at it. I saw their hands, grabbed and thought, “Score!” Well, then what? lol! The guys said, “Swing your leg up!” Say what?!?!?! I managed eventually and they hauled me up as gracefully as a dead gamefish—enough so that the first dumb thing out of my mouth was, “Wow—you caught a marlin!” I did manage to thank him in a bit.

24.Electroshock Therapy –The final obstacle, the run through dangling, 10,000-volt wires, probably scared me the most. It didn’t help that I’d gotten a kick from the Electric Eel. We cruised up to the obstacle, tired and ready to be done, I turned to the ladies to ask if they were wearing gloves or not, and one of them had disappeared. She’d sprinted straight on up and through. Left behind, we looked at each other and took off after her—not a shock among us. We found out later that only the ends of the wires shock, so it’s fine to push them aside—as we ended up doing!
Bonus: Despite wondering if I’d missed my family coming to see me, sitting in the grass afterward with a Cliff bar in one hand and a Dos Equis in the other was sheer heaven.

Running factored into the whole experience. If you do the math, we had twenty-four obstacles spread out over 11.2 miles, so roughly a half mile between obstacles. Of course, it wasn’t evenly spaced, but more or less. The entire course seemed to be a former cow pasture, dried patties and all. The grass looked to have been about knee high, then mowed, then trampled by earlier waves. Lots of dry cuttings piled up and floating around.

So we had level, flat terrain with a springy, giving surface. We had to watch out for the grass hummocks and hidden holes—plus the cow patties—but it was a fabulous course to run. There were some shaded stretches of nice, open Florida oak trees and we switched to watching out for roots and snakes.

As for me, I struggled with the run more in the beginning, oddly. The first few miles I got hot and I think I was reacting to the allergens (our weed levels have been high for months). Once we started getting dunked in water, I felt much better. We broke fairly often, but kept up a steady pace overall. By the end, my lower back/upper hip/saddle region felt MUCH better in jogging position than in an upright, walking position.

And I’m just astonished by the way my ability to run five miles nonstop translated into the ability to run 11.2 interrupted miles. How does that happen?

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