It’s not often you get to sit next to a cool, attractive blonde on a plane. Of the, I dunno, 100 flights I’ve been on, I’ve only had that kind of luck twice: SLC-JFK and MEX-MTY.
So, of course, I had to strike up a conversation. That eventually led to an invitation.
Nina invited me to run Tough Mudder with her & her college teammates. 2 days later.
I’m not one to pass up partaking in a unique experience. Especially not on this trip. But for a variety of reasons/excuses, I’m not as fit as I was a year ago. Hell, my brother is in better shape than I am, and that’s saying something; he was, like, 300 lbs. a year ago and now he’s running half marathons (Kudos, Vic!)!
I’m driven and competitive, but I was a little hesistant to commit to Tough Mudder on such short-notice; 18 kilometers with challenging obstacles that would put my weak upper body and lack of conditioning on full display (the most I’d run on this trip was about 10k/6 miles). I don’t like making a fool of myself, walking when I should be running, getting injured, or quitting, and I sensed this could end up with me accomplishing all of those things at once.
In my defense, that hesitation wasn’t unfounded. The last two times I’ve jumped at the chance to join in on an physically-taxing activity that wasn’t in my wheelhouse (aka, just running), I’ve ended up spending way too much money on medical bills, thanks to a quad tear (soccer) and a bulging disk (Work Out With a Pro test), womp, womp. And that was when I was running 4x a week and had insurance. I’m no spring chicken anymore, I suppose.
I told Nina I’d sleep on it and let her know the following day.
That gave me time to do a little research on Tough Mudder and similar obstacle runs, assess the risks, figure out if I wanted to drop 2-days’ budget on it, and consult with my brother, who managed to question my virility and provide encouragement in the same text.
After sleeping on it, I signed up and figured that, worse-case scenario, I’d ruin the clothes & shoes I wore, be shot by a sniper on Mount Everest 2.0, get laughed at by some meathead bros, and have to skip or hobble through a 5-day hike in Chile.
Running Tough Mudder without training
Uber got me there 90 minutes before our heat, giving me enough time to stretch, warm-up, review the course map (what? No fire obstacles? Come on, Tough Mudder!) and observe people as they got electrocuted right before the finish line. I determined that if I were to make it that far, a slow, methodical walk through Electroshock Therapy was not the way to go. Fast and furious was the answer.
Soon enough, Nina (Germany), Nico (France), Diego and Andrés (Bolivia), and I (Team Terrific Tec), the United Nations of Tough Mudder, were ready to roll.
Five kilometers in and through a quarter of the obstacles, I was muddy, wet, and more worried about reapplying sunscreen on my head than I was about finishing, as I was having fun and our group was passing Tough Mudder teams from the previous heat (and helping them at obstacles, as well, of course).
By the time we got to the halfway point, we’d picked up a new teammate – César, who was running solo – and I was feeling good about my chances and not feeling tired. The Monkey Bars still loomed ahead, though, and it was the obstacle I figured I’d struggle with the most, besides Everest 2.0
We came upon our first long line at the rope climb and had to wait it out 10 minutes. I feared this would be my undoing. My muscles would cool and my hamstring would snap as soon as I began running again. But, thankfully, I was wrong.
The line at King of the Swingers was even longer. I’m talking 300 people in line, with only four able to partake at once (and slowly). Despite the fun-looking obstacle and against some teammates’ wishes, we decided to skip the 30-40 minute wait and keep moving. It was the only one we passed on, and, unfortunately, it was for a reason out of our control.
By the time we got to Funky Monkey we were deep into the course and coming up on the homestretch. I was determined to not end up in the water below after two seconds, as I feared. Visions of American Gladiator flashed through my head after I wiped my hands on the dirt to ensure the mud on my hands wouldn’t be my fatal flaw. And, after observing several people to see which methods were successful (or not), I jumped up, grabbed the bars and got to it.
I swung around and felt a sense of accomplishment after making it halfway through. When I made it all the way through, I definitely clapped it out. I wasn’t fast (Diego and Andrés blazed through it with ease), but I conquered the ostacle and my fears. That alone was worth the steep price of admission for me.
If it weren’t for my teammates (who helped pull me to the top), Everest 2.0 would have required another few tries or a shameful walk around it.
As we came up on the final obstacle, Electroshock Therapy, we could see the finish line 50 yards away. It was time to run like hell.
I almost made it out clean. But I got the shock of my life within 5-yards of escaping the obstacle unscathed, a current moving from my left palm, through my forearm, and into my bicep (I felt it for a good hour after finishing Tough Mudder). The electricity put an end to my sprint and sent me into an epic faceplant, complete with a mouthful of what I hoped would not be E.coli-laden mud.
Nonetheless, it felt fantastic to join the rest of the team a few seconds later, receive our stylish, orange Tough Mudder headbands, get a muddy group hug in, and cross the finish line.
But there was one more obstacle to conquer: rinsing off.
Due to poor planning by Tough Mudder organizers (I’ll cut them some slack, it’s a 2nd year event, in Mexico, anyway), the post-race showers ran out of water. That’s right. Muddy throngs lined up to rinse who then couldn’t.
I had to get the hell outta there and back to the city for the big Rayados vs Tigres game, so I went to nearest place with water to rinse off. An obstacle called Arctic Enema. Given its unpleasant name, you can imagine how cold it was in that container full of ice and water. But it was my only solution (of course, the bathrooms were out of water, too).
In I went for a quick, 30 second scrub. And then bailed out. Three times. That’s how I got mostly clean. It was not that fun.
So in the end, despite the lack of training and all the hesitation and nerves in the world, I ran the whole time, finished, and made it out just fine (sore arms, core, and shoulder for a day or two; legs were fine).
Maybe they’re tougher back in the US, but this one was way more fun than tough and it was a blast working as a team to conquer obstacles. Credit to Tough Mudder for good marketing; perception is reality and by using really fit people in their advertising they make you believe these are craaazy hard, but that’s not true. Sure, a few of them are challenging, but doable and quite fun, even without training, as long as you’ve got a base level of fitness and a good mentality. And a good washer.
I’d totally do it again and recommend you grab some friends (or make some on a plane), and try one out, too. It’s a blast.
The full 2016 event schedule is available. Find a Tough Mudder near you here!