Friday, August 05, 2011

ToughMudder: how much do you really love mud?

I thought the Tough Mudder would bring back those momentous child opportunities to jump in mud puddles without the contrition of getting dirty. Dressed in an ensemble that I was prepared to discard afterwards, I arrived with the idea that I would be in a cross-country foot race with a few obstacles meshed between to keep the running part less boring. But having never looked at the course map and without a hint of mudder-dedicated training, I was far less prepared than I thought.

The first few miles fulfilled my desire to engage in several deviant acts that wouldn’t warrant judgment, like throwing mud at strangers. But the decreasing temperatures made me question how much inner child I was channeling on this 9-mile trek. As I sit solemnly, achingly, wondering how I bruised my kidney, I can’t help but wonder if anything good came out of this.

To help you determine if sacrificing your warm soul is really worth the orange headband and free beer, take these lessons as you will.

Lesson One:
Maybe training isn’t a bad idea
I hadn’t run in 8 months, but climbing 3 times a week gave me the false sense that I was in amazing running shape. I was very wrong. The climbing didn’t go unnoticed, for one of the most challenging events was the inclining monkey bars, which I completed successfully and earned a free slice of pizza, but had I trained properly, this may not have been the sole highlight of this race.*

There are several helpful training videos you can follow. I ignored all advice because many of the videos end with the trainees shaving their heads and grunting into the camera, but they all serve a helpful purpose.

Lesson Two:
Even space blankets have their limits: Dress Warm
The base of Mount Snow was 60 degrees, the perfect temperature for a road race. Of course, I didn’t account for the rapidly declining temperature as we ascended further up Mount Snow, or the several obstacles, where we were submerged in frigid waters. Whether we jumped off a 15 foot platform into a recently unfrozen pond (Walk the plank), waded through a river with a snow maker shooting a storm at us (The ball shrinker), or dumpster dove into red dye and ice cubes (forgot how to read at that point), the space blankets that the organizers gave out were hardly considered generous. At least I have the priceless memory of burly tattooed men grasping their aluminum sheets in desperation.

A layer of Under Armor or other quick drying material will save you from being one the 150 victims of hypothermia in each Tough Mudder race. A pair of neoprene socks isn’t a bad idea either.

Lesson Three:
There are several different types of mud, and your ankles will hate them all
The snowmakers were working full-time to ensure there was not a dry grain on the course, which created mud of different viscosity levels, and each required a different approach to avoid a twisted ankle.

Some of the more memorable kinds to watch out for:

Step, Step, Sink- The unleveled bottom of the mud puddles in the woods creates some comic relief as even a careful canter can result in a single leg covered in thigh high muck

Swamp of Sadness- Move too fast in this dense clay mass and you will likely trip over your heavy mud-gathered sneakers and face plant, move too slow and the suction will steal your sneakers altogether. After mile 7, you won’t notice the difference anyway.

Wintry Mud Mix- The snow bits provide some much needed traction to climb uphill, and shuffling quickly downhill will ice your sore calves.

Overall, the Tough Mudder is a spiteful challenge that gives you a pool of vinegar to crawl through after falling down a hill of sharp ice and makes you run through dangling live electric wires after getting soaked from an icy waterslide. Of course, every obstacle is optional, and you still get your free beer if you don’t finish. So your level of sadism is completely up to you.

Good luck Mudder Muckers.

*Tough Mudder is not a race, it is a “personal challenge” as they advertise, but it’s still a race against your diminishing body heat.