Sunday, September 9, 2012

Playing in the Mud (or "I Promise I *Am* an Adult...I Think")

Because I haven't done enough crazy things in the year since we returned from Bangkok (see here, here...oh, and here), this past weekend I participated in my first Tough Mudder event.  For those of you who haven't yet heard of the Tough Mudder, I will refrain from asking what cave you've been hiding in, because these things have become incredibly popular and you are probably sick and tired of hearing your friends talk about their "Mudder experience" and how cool they think they are because they finished it.  So for those of my intrepid readers who aren't familiar with Tough Mudder, I offer from their own website the following blurb:

TOUGH MUDDER: Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet
Tough Mudder events are hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.

And you know, with obstacle names like Arctic Enema, Dirty Ballerina, Kiss of Mud, Trench Warfare, Berlin Walls, Boa Constrictor, Mud Mile, Everest, and Electroshock Therapy, you have the nagging suspicion that these events are fact designed to really test you.  And if the names aren't sufficiently foreboding, you have to sign a death waiver before you can participate.

So of course it was a totally enjoyable experience.  It was physically demanding--you can't complete the course without some physical preparation and mental fortitude--but it was also an awful lot of fun.
That ground was dry when we started.  And we were clean.
A huge factor in making the event so much fun to do was attacking the course with a great bunch of guys (Alan, Clark, and Dan, you guys rock--and Roger, you were there with us in spirit, brother).  It is a simple truth that many of the obstacles are impossible to complete by yourself, and there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie between all the participants; the assistance from complete strangers, coated in as much mud as you are, is invaluable.  Where it totally helped to be there with great friends was while running between obstacles, when we could encourage each other, talk about anything and everything, all while getting ready to take on some new challenge guaranteed to get you wet, muddy, sore, and maybe a little chagrined.

Not to brag--which should be a total telltale sign that I'm going to--but we have a tougher Tough Mudder event than the organizers may have intended.  While the morning weather was fabulous, overcast and warm with tolerable humidity, the afternoon was another story altogether.  We could see the storm clouds heading our way, and as they marshaled our group to the starting line, the heavens opened and it rained.  Like Southeast Asian monsoon kind of rain, like the Vietnam scenes in Forrest Gump.  And it rained for at least an hour, with varying intensity, but with the end result being that pretty much every step of our 12-mile course was in mud.  I didn't see any participant letting the rain get them, and for our team, we agreed that it set a tone from the start that we were in for an experience.

By the way, it was incredibly inspiring to join with about 500 other people and enthusiastically sing "The Star Spangled Banner" in a torrential downpour.  Gave me the chills, the good kind.

It was tough.  A day later I'm a little sore, but not debilitatingly so.  And sure, you have to be mentally strong to get over being wet and muddy--although the kid in me openly reveled in getting completely covered in mud.  The trail was slick the entire time, and parts of the course got flooded.  In the end it was so bad that the organizers had to cancel the Sunday event, in large part because emergency vehicles would be unable to access parts of the course in the event an emergency evacuation became necessary.

But with all due respect and apologies to the Tough Mudder folks, this was not the most difficult thing I've done.  The trail marathon I ran in June was much more challenging, both physically and mentally, for me.  I attribute the relative ease of completing this course, again, to the fact that for the entirety of the Mudder, I was with friends, I was never alone.  There's a Sunday School lesson or ABC Afternoon Special in there, I'm sure of it.

In the end, of course, it was awesome.  Naturally I will be finding leftover mud in places I didn't realize were humanly capable of getting muddy.  So of course I'm already looking forward to doing it again next year.
Oh yeah, I'm totally a serious Mudder