Note: This column appears in the 1/19 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/20 issue of the Peoria Times.
We had to hop over a 12-foot wall just to make it to the starting corral for the Tough Mudder event in Mesa last weekend. Once we landed safely, we were informed by the event’s emcee—after a rather inspirational speech—to be careful, as many of the runners who had already departed had suffered injuries like dislocated knees and broken collarbones. Oh, and also a heart attack. Someone had suffered a heart attack. And with that, we were off.
The second obstacle was the Chernobyl Jacuzzi, which has, for your records, been renamed the “Arctic Enema,” which does not do the obstacle justice, as I would happily endure a dozen arctic enemas before doing this again once. It is a dumpster filled with ice water and separated by a board in the middle. You walk in, unspeakably freezing water up to your chest, and to make it to the other side, you must submerge yourself in the water and go under the board. Once we—myself, my buddy Pete, my father-in-law, and brother-in-law Anthony—made it out alive, we shook ourselves off, looked at each other, and silently acknowledged that we would finish this. (We also verbally acknowledged this by screaming, “ARRRGGGGHHHHHHH!” and beating our chests like cavemen.)
From there we crawled through mud, jumped bales of hay, climbed mountains of mud, ate mud, crawled through tubes filled with mud, climbed over walls, jumped over gorges, unsuccessfully traversed balance beams and fell into florescent green ice water, and all the types of things you do on a Saturday for no other reason than to test your body’s limits and form an impenetrable bond with a select few who are the only people in the world who can understand what you went through.
We looked at the map of the course online beforehand, each of us singling out in our minds which obstacles we would skip. But your entire mindset changes once you’re in it. You get to an obstacle and you do it because it’s there. There’s no time or reason to rationalize what could go wrong, and before you know it, you’re jumping from a wooden plank 15-feet in the air into freezing water, just sort of hoping it’s deep enough. (Note: it was.)
Case in point was the final obstacle, Shock Therapy, which is a series of live wires dangling over muddy water. We had heard reports on this ranging from “it’s not so bad” to “someone has suffered a heart attack,” and I can tell you now that it’s closer to the latter. Anthony bravely attempted to walk through—most choose to crawl through the mud—and the first shock dropped him like he’d been picked off by a sniper. We sort of promised my mother-in-law that my father-in-law wouldn’t do this one, but you can guess how that went. He looked like a fish getting tasered in there. I got hit three times, but the one in the shoulder was so bad it sent reverberations to Pete, who was crawling next to me. You can’t really say you’re “friends” with someone until they’ve absorbed some of your electrical shock while crawling through mud.
And that’s the most amazing thing about the Tough Mudder: you literally cannot complete it alone. It requires the help and support—not emotional, though that helps; like their hands and arms and stuff—of others, whether teammates or complete strangers who immediately cease to be strangers. It is the most extreme physical exercise, but it is mostly an exercise in humanity.
The feeling of satisfaction I imagined upon finishing was instead an extreme physical shivering that made me think my jaw was going to lock shut. I couldn’t even hold my free beer, which is the boldest declaration of difficulty for this event that I can offer.
We completed all 12.5 miles, all 29 obstacles. The average age of the Tough Mudder participant was probably like 29. My father-in-law is 60-something. This was Pete’s fourth. Anthony was a beast. I am a web editor for a weekly newspaper who cannot locate the main water valve in my house, and I felt like a freakin' tribal warrior out there. My happiness that it’s over is only surpassed by my pride that we did it. Together.
I think I am going to keep the Mohawk.
Team "Here Comes the Stuff" pre-mud.